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Special teamer Donnie Nickey goes off on the kickoff rules

MJD
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DonnieNickeyLetter

Maybe we're beating a dead horse on the new kickoff rules this afternoon, and if so, my apologies. That's what the preseason is for.

Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean passed along a letter from NFL special teamer Donnie Nickey on Monday. Nickey's been a career special teamer after being drafted by the Titans in the fifth round of the 2003 draft. He became a free agent after last season, and has yet to find work for the upcoming season. Here's his letter.

Just a thought from an unemployed ex-Titan … In today's economy industries need to be creating jobs. In the NFL, the new kickoff rule is eliminating jobs. The kickoff may as well be eliminated all together. For eight years I made my living covering kickoffs and I took pride in it. The kickoff may be the most violent play in all of sports but is one of the most exciting and game changing plays as well.

The first sign of the kickoff's extinction was the elimination of the four man wedge. That eliminated the need for a wedgebuster, which is how I earned my job. I think the NFL is destroying the true game of football and the physicality that America has grown to love. For someone who has never played the game to make so many changes unchecked is criminal. Paul Brown is rolling over in his grave because of all the changes made in the name of "player safety."

People go to NASCAR races to see wrecks. People go to football games to see long touchdowns and devastating hits. It's an injustice to the game and the men who have made their living covering kickoffs and sacrificing their bodies to have their jobs made obsolete. They might as well just have the kicker try to make it through the uprights on the kickoff for two points and the receiving team start at the fifteen or miss and start at the twenty.

Roger Goodell is hurting our game and eliminating jobs. Do NASCAR drivers get fined $100,000 for wrecking their cars? It's part of the sport. Come on Roger, America loves violence and the men who are lucky enough to be in the NFL love the game. Businessmen, lawyers, and insurance companies are turning football into flag football and preventing men like me from feeding my family.

With zero disrespect intended to Donnie Nickey, I disagree with a great deal of this. After the jump, I'll quibble with a few particular points.

Here we go.

In today's economy industries need to be creating jobs. In the NFL, the new kickoff rule is eliminating jobs.

No it's not. Gameday rosters will still be comprised of 45 men, whether or not there are kick returners and kick coverers among those 45. Someone will get those jobs. The amount of jobs available for NFL players is exactly the same today as it was last season (unless you count the new rule about the third quarterback not being inactive, in which case, you could say the rosters have grown by one).

Also, can we not say "eliminating jobs" and reference the economy like we're talking about sending 450,000 factory jobs to Taiwan or something? If we even were eliminating jobs -- and we're not -- it would be a very small handful of jobs, not some mass defection that could further cripple America's economy.

The kickoff may as well be eliminated all together.

Yeah, maybe.

I think the NFL is destroying the true game of football and the physicality that America has grown to love.

Yeah. A lot of people feel that way. In the long run, I don't think it's going to matter, though. By Week 4, I don't think anyone's going to be talking about the kickoff rule anymore, because the game's still going to be exciting, and there's still going to be a very high level of physicality. And by the end of the season, I don't think anyone's going to be sitting around saying, "I really didn't enjoy that season because it wasn't violent enough."

It seems like an issue now. In time, I don't believe it will. But we'll see.

People go to NASCAR races to see wrecks.

I'm not sure that's true. Maybe a small percentage, but by and large, I think most of a NASCAR crowd enjoys the spectacle, the competition, and the nuances and excitement of a race.

But I'll play along. Say there is a portion of NASCAR fans who show up just to see car crashes. How'd they enjoy this one? People will watch all kinds of violent things. People watch Bumfights. Just because there are people out there who feel jolly when they see a man's car flip seven times and smash into a wall at 170 mph doesn't mean that those fans must be courted.

I think there are purer reasons for watching a race, just like there's more to an MMA fight than a knockout head kick, and there's more to a hockey game than the fights. Hockey's a great example, in fact. Fights may be fun, but in the Olympics, when hockey somehow still exists without fights, we get some of the most exciting games in hockey history.

People go to football games to see long touchdowns and devastating hits.

I think that's a little bit reductive of NFL fans. A lot of people like short touchdowns, too. And a competitive, back-and-forth game. And rooting for their favorite teams. And all of it, really. We're not all just sitting around waiting for long touchdowns and devastating hits. There's a whole game there.

Businessmen, lawyers, and insurance companies are turning football into flag football and preventing men like me from feeding my family.

I empathize. I am sorry that you haven't found a spot on an NFL roster. I hope you do. Really.

I just don't agree with what you're saying. If someone wanted to argue that the kickoff wasn't any more dangerous than any other play in an NFL game, and had statistics to back that up, I'd listen. But the NFL believes it's a dangerous thing  -- one of the few they actually can control in a game -- and they're trying to do that.

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