NEWARK, N.J. – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has received pleas from the special teams units of Super Bowl XLVIII to abandon proposed changes in the rules that would marginalize kickers.
Goodell recently admitted he was considering plans to abandon the extra point kick after touchdowns, causing kickers around the league to fear that their skill set – and job security – could soon be compromised.
"One day I'm sure they will just take kickers out of the game completely, that is the direction it looks like they are going," said Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater, who set an all-time league record by nailing a 64-yard attempt against the Tennessee Titans this season.
Prater and his opposite number on Sunday, Steven Hauschka of the Seattle Seahawks, are both among the most accurate kickers in the league, and each voiced fears on how their breed may soon be forced out of the game.
The NFL had previously discussed scrapping the kickoff in an effort to cut down on violent hits and potential injuries, and Hauschka saw the commissioner's extra point comments as a worrying sign.
"I'd like to keep it the way it is," Hauschka said. "We've got the most popular game in the country right now and growing worldwide. But we are in danger of being marginalized."
Kickers are football's most maligned group and perhaps unsurprisingly, many are frustrated by the sense that they could be targeted as the league considers tinkering with the rules.
Kicking has been part of the game throughout its history, but Broncos punter Britton Colquitt, who holds Prater's field goal and PAT tries, does not know how much longer he will have the chance to continue what for him is a family tradition.
"They always like to take it out on the kicker, that is why we are the lonely kicker," said Colquitt, son of two-time Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl winner Craig Colquitt, while brother Dustin punts for the Kansas City Chiefs. "Where do you stop? How many rules do you want to change?
"Why change it? It doesn't even take that long, guys aren't getting hurt on that play. It takes about 25-30 seconds, why not do it? Why take our jobs away?"
The problem for kickers is that they have become too good … for their own good. Extra point kicks have a success rate of over 99 percent since 2004, and Goodell claimed only five out of more than 1,200 were missed during the current season.
One proposed change Goodell suggested could happen would see teams rewarded with an automatic seven points for scoring a touchdown. However, if a team decided to go for an eighth point – like with the current two-point conversion system – and failed, they would receive only six.
It is somewhat unfortunate that ahead of the biggest game of their lives, the likes of Prater and Hauschka felt the need to justify their own value to the sport. However, not everybody was on the same page as Prater, even within his own unit. Long snapper Aaron Brewer insisted he would not be especially bothered if extra points were ditched.
"If they do it is one less thing for me to do," he said.
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