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Dawson offers suggestion on kickoff rules

Posted Dec 7, 2012

Browns kicker Phil Dawson has a suggestion when it comes to changing kickoffs in the National Football League.

Cleveland Browns kicker Phil Dawson has seen several rules changes on special teams during his 14-year NFL career.

In light of recent public comments by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about eliminating kickoffs to help make the game safer, Dawson had a suggestion of his own: Make kickoffs that go through the uprights count as field goals.

“A lot of teams still do the directional stuff,” Dawson said Friday. “If you had a chance to get points, more (kickers) would just bang away.”

Kickoffs happen at the 35-yard line in the NFL, which means a kicker would have to kick the ball 75 yards through the uprights. Dawson saw that happen first-hand when Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski split the uprights on a kickoff in the Browns’ 20-17 victory over the Raiders last Sunday.

While Dawson said he would probably “benefit from this rule” because of his status as a “field-goal guy,” he acknowledged that it would have an effect on the game’s strategy.

“There is so much scheming, personnel matchups, strategy that goes into each and every kickoff that people will never understand,” Dawson said. “All they see is a guy run and kick the ball. There’s a lot that goes into it and that would just be a shame to see that much thought be removed from the game.”

For the last eight seasons, Dawson has watched as Joshua Cribbs make two Pro Bowl appearances based on his kickoff- and punt-return abilities. Cribbs has gained 9,707 kickoff return yards, the most of any NFL player with one team in the league’s history. Cribbs has returned an NFL record eight kickoffs for touchdowns, a mark he currently shares with Leon Washington of the Seattle Seahawks.

“From a little kid, I’ve dreamed about having the opening kick of the Super Bowl with all of the flash bulbs go off; I want to be that guy,” Dawson said. “There’s so much that can be accomplished on that play for both sides. A guy like Josh Cribbs wouldn’t have the opportunity to have the career that he’s had (with) of all the excitement he’s brought to the game as a kick returner. I can remember Desmond Howard returning a kickoff for a touchdown in the Super Bowl and what a game-changing play that was. I’m all for player safety and I do think the NFL has done a good job in the past with the wedge rule.”

The wedge rule prevents players from joining hands or locking arms in an effort to clear space for players to run behind and prevent a coverage unit from tackling the returner.

“When they outlawed the wedge on kickoff returns, I think that was a tremendous rule change,” Dawson said. “In the old days, you’d have four guys coming together and from a kickoff perspective, you would have two or three guys on your team who were taught, run down there and blow it up. Now, you don’t have that. I think you can make the game safer, but this whole idea that eliminating kickoffs from the game completely is going to make the game safer, I think it’s dubious, at best.”

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