Thursday, August 25, 2011

'No Risk, No Return'

No kicker wants to end up on a Hester poster.
The rule change in the National Football League to move the ball from the 30 yard line to the 35 on kickoffs was a rule voted on before the NFL lockout and this preseason we're seeing already the number of returnable kickoffs will be almost non-existent now.  Sure, players will be safer because less kick returns means less high-speed collisions.  But those hits are what special teams are all about.  Some of the most unsung players in the NFL play on kickoffs, and even though most go unnoticed, they are a big factor in who wins or loses.  Also, there are few plays in pro sports more exciting than a kick returned for a touchdown.  It's almost like watching the 100-yard dash, except people are trying to knock your head off.  The men who are great at navigating through all that tumult become stars; some of them legends.  It really makes no sense to change something that was perfectly fine to begin with.  The rule needs to change back to the way it was or some of these NFL stars will be trying their hardests to get in where they fit in.

Logan is a nightmare on kick returns.
Stefan Logan - Detroit Lions
From the University of South Dakota to the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, Logan has had a journey to make it to the NFL.  If it weren't for his skills as a returner, the undrafted 5-foot-6 180-pound specialist probably still wouldn't be in the league.  Last year Logan really burst on the scene with the Detroit Lions, ranking fourth in total kick return yards including a 105 yard return for touchdown, longest of the 2010 season.

Eric Weems - Atlanta Falcons
Since signing to the Falcons as an undrafted rookie free-agent in 2007, Weems has posted 13 receptions for 115 yards.  Weems was also selected to his first career Pro Bowl in 2010.  He proved to be quite the game breaker last year in the playoffs when he returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown against the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.

Osgood has made his mark as the NFL's top gunner.

Devin Hester - Chicago Bears
Hester has banked bigged dough in his career playing solely as kick returner and is already the all-time NFL leader in kickoff returns for touchdowns in just eight seasons as a pro.  The Bears have tried to work him in on defense at cornerback and on offense at wide receiver to take advantage of his explosiveness but to this point neither venture has looked too promising.   Kickers and coaches will be very pleased with the rule change when facing Chicago for sure, as Hester is likely the most feared kick returner of all-time.

Kassim Osgood - Jacksonville Jaguars
It's not just about the guys who return the ball, it's about the guys who chase them down, too.  Osgood is good enough of a receiver to full in when someone gets injured, but his bread and butter is as a gunner on special teams.  While on the San Diego Chargers, where he spent his first nine years in the league, Osgood has earned a Pro Bowl spot in 2007, 2008, and 2010 as a special teamer.

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