Tory Taylor kickoff weapon? Bears will consider rookie punter with new rules in place

Tory Taylor kickoff weapon? Bears will consider rookie punter with new rules in place originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – New kickoff rules coming to the NFL this year have the Bears, and every other team in the league, thinking differently about the play. In particular, the Bears want the world to know that they’re considering using new punter Tory Taylor as a weapon to potentially pin down opposing offenses.

“He’s always an option on kickoffs and the rest of the league got to figure it out,” said special teams coordinator Richard Hightower. “He can do some really, really cool things with the ball in his hand from a punt standpoint and from a kickoff standpoint.”

Under the new rule, kickers will try to place the ball inside a “landing zone” from the 20-yard line to the end zone. Any kick that lands in the zone must be returned, but if a ball lands in the zone and trickles into the endzone it can be downed for a touchback at the 20-yard line. However if a kick hits in the endzone first, it can be downed for a touchback at the 30-yard line. Balls that go out the back of the endzone will also come out the 30. If a kickoff lands short of the zone, it will be blown dead and the ball will go to the 40-yard line.

Taylor is more known for his punting prowess at Iowa, but his rare mix of leg strength and precise ball placement could play under the new rules. There probably isn’t a question that Taylor could reach the landing zone. His directionality wouldn’t be a concern either. The only unknown is how well Taylor can kick off of a tee.

If the Bears do call Taylor’s number for kickoffs, he’s up for the new challenge.

“I want to be out there for as many plays as I can,” Taylor said. “Because I feel like there's really only a certain amount of positions in football where you can manipulate the game how you want to manipulate the game and punting is one of them.

“I'm fortunate to be one of the guys on the field who has the ball in his hands and that means at that specific period of time you're in control of the game and obviously I want to win. So I want to control the game how I want to. And if that includes being out on kickoff then that would be great. Then obviously the new rules are certainly going to keep some special teams coaches up late at night. It's kind of funny that if I went out there that a lot of teams are gonna be like, 'Oh what's he doing out there, somethings coming.' So it will be good fun for sure.”

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