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Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor talks major rule change, loss of Travis Benjamin

Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor has been dealt an interesting deck of cards over the past few years and, most recently, last week.

The NFL last week announced it will move touchbacks to the 25-yard line, the league's second special teams wrinkle in as many years after it moved the extra point out to the 15-yard line before the start of last season.

Tabor on Tuesday said he understands the rule changes in a wide-ranging interview on Cleveland Browns Daily.

"The safety of the players should always be first and foremost, there's no doubt about that, and I think while you're looking at those things, you're also looking at the integrity of the game and still wanting to make it exciting, and I think the league is doing a good job," he said.

"It does make you think differently about certain things, but that's our job as a coach. So just looking forward to the next one."

And perhaps more immediately, Tabor and the Browns must replace wide receiver Travis Benjamin, the team's leading punt returner who parted ways with Cleveland in free agency earlier this month.

"In my area and on any team in the National Football League, rosters are going to change," Tabor said, echoing a sentiment made clear in recent weeks by head coach Hue Jackson.

"And to be honest with you — it might sound crazy — we don't talk about the players that leave. I'm always proud of the players that I coach but I'm excited about the players that we're going to coach. And I think that's the key because, at the end of the day, I think those are going to be the ones that help the Cleveland Browns win and get this thing going."

Challenged by Jackson to make Cleveland's special teams "second to none," Tabor and his staff will look to build on strengths — like the NFL's highest punt return average from 2011-15 (11.3 yards) and kicker Travis Coons, who made 18 straight field goals, setting the league record for the most consecutive field goals to begin a career — and shore up weaknesses like blocked kicks from deep and average starting field position.

Tabor and Co., of course, also must account for the league's most recent rule change that could affect the way they approach the kickoff/kick return game.

"It's a new element of the game that we're studying a little bit and you're seeing it in college football, so as we're kind of studying these draft picks you're seeing a lot of it and looking at how colleges play this rule," Tabor said. "But it'll be something we'll be prepared for obviously — you have to be — and we'll play it as it goes."

Tabor added, "It's going to be interesting and I think — especially early on in the year, when the weather's really nice — that's when you just say those are just going to be automatic touchbacks when the ball goes to the 20.

"Now I think it's going to be obviously the whole year where even on a beautiful nice day, where you see possibly a shorter kick because you feel maybe you have an advantage in your kickoff coverage versus maybe the guys they have blocking on the front line and we can secure a tackle inside the 25. There's going to be all sorts of factors, and that's what makes it fun."

It also might increase the emphasis -- or better, perceived emphasis -- on special teams, which can be at times taken for granted by even the most avid onlookers.

Asked if he liked seeing big special teams plays in the spotlight, Tabor agreed.

"I always kind of think, well, I'm glad it's happening in those moments because it does highlight special teams and the importance of the game. Because usually, to be quite honest, it's usually talked about when something bad happens and the other areas are taken for granted and the players put in a lot of work to make sure the plays are taken for granted," he said.

"They work hard at perfecting at what they're doing; it just shows at any point in time, each third of the game is quite important and I feel fortunate and Coach Jackson feels the same way. We've got a lot of work to do but we're starting the process."

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