To start the Hall of Fame Game in August, the Bears will participate in the first play under the NFL’s new kickoff rule.
No one’s sure what it’ll look like.
“It’ll be different to see if we’re doing it different than the other team, even if the stances are different,” kicker Cody Parkey said Wednesday.
The most the Bears have to go off is the 2016 Senior Bowl, where, assistant special teams coach Brock Olivo said, “you can almost see the exact kickoff return formation” that the NFL codified last week. Still, it’s not much help.
“We have our ideas,” Olivo said, “but we don’t know what to expect.”
Citing a study that showed concussions are five times more likely on kickoffs, the league ruled kicking teams can no longer get a running start and must have at least five players per side. Two players must line up outside the numbers, two between the hashes.
Eight return-team players must be placed in a 15-yard “set up zone,” and wedge blocks are illegal.
“I think the new parameters we have in there are going to limit some of the high-speed collisions,” special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said. “And at the same time still have the dynamic part of the returners and setting field position.”
Tabor doesn’t think safety concerns will eventually kill the kickoff. He applauded the league, after consulting special teams coaches, for choosing to modify the play.
“I couldn’t imagine turning on the television and saying, ‘They spot the ball at the 25,’ and then just start playing football,” he said.