It could be open season on kickers during extra points

Whenever the NFL changes rules, an opportunity arises for potential unintended consequences. Those unintended consequences can arise from a coach spotting a way to fairly exploit any loopholes arising from the rule change.

For the revolutionary new configuration to the kickoff, there's one very potentially significant loophole that can become a significant, and problematic, unintended consequence.

As passed by 29 owners, the new kickoff configuration will not change if there's a penalty that carries over from the try. The penalty will move only the spot of the actual kick. Which, in most cases, will be meaningless. The kick itself still must be land between the goal line and the 20, and the action won't begin until the kick is caught, or until the ball hits the ground in the 20-yard landing zone.

So if the team that scores a touchdown opts for the traditional one-point try, what's the downside to sending players aggressively after the kicker, with a directive to go all out for the block and not worry about crashing into him? The penalty, whether five yards for running into the kicker or 15 for roughing the kicker, will mean nothing to the ensuing kickoff.

Hopefully, teams won't deliberately try to injure the kicker. That said, it would potentially be open season on hitting them during or after a kick, because there will be no fear of a significant downside. Once kickers realize it's coming, they might get even skittish before the kick — making a miss more likely. And if, through the application of a clean, legal hit the kicker is unable to continue in a given game, the kicking team will potentially have a hard time placing the ball in the 20-yard landing zone with a backup kicker.

The counter would be that the offense can elect to re-do the try, if the kick misses or if they prefer to go for two from the one. Also, it could be easier from the 50 to kick a line drive that hits the ground (allowing the coverage team to commence its pursuit) before the return specialist gets the ball.

Still, there will be coaches who study the new rule and decide to remove the restrictor plate from the men charged with attempting to block the PAT. With no significant consequence from slamming into the kicker while attempting to block the kick, some coaches will choose to go all out, if only to get the kicker thinking a little too much before the next PAT.