Thursday, March 17, 2011
Posted: 11:13 a.m.
By John Mullin
The Bears stand to take a hit this offseason and thats with everything right now at an official standstill.
The NFL and NFLPA are stalled on making changes to the collective bargaining agreement but the league is going ahead with a couple other needed changes, a couple of them particularly interesting.
Once upon a time NFL teams kicked off from the 40-yard lines. Not too many years ago, in an effort to inject more excitement into the game, the league moved kickoffs back to the 30. The league also took footballs out of the hands (literally) of kickers and instituted the K balls, kept in their wrappers and away from creative equipment managing, in order to keep balls from being booted as far. The express intent was to reduce the number of touchbacks.
Now the league is intent on giving the pendulum a healthy shove back the other direction.
At their meetings next week in New Orleans, a proposal to move kickoffs up to the 35-yard line will be voted upon, expressly to reduce the number of kickoffs. The feeling is that kickoff returns are a source of serious injuries, which they are. Along with that, receiving teams will be given the ball at the 25-yard line instead of the 20, making it less enticing for returners to bring a ball out of the end zone.
The Bears wont take it personally but this all hits them as hard as any team in the NFL.
The Bears had 10 kickoff returns of 40 yards or longer in 2010, most in the NFL. And they have three returners capable of and delivering these field-position gems: Devin Hester (five), Danieal Manning (four) and Johnny Knox (one).
Hesters 35.6-yard return average was highest in the NFL among players with at least 10 returns.
Mannings 17 returns of 40 or more yards since 2008 are No. 1 in the NFL over that span.
It gets worse.
The Bears ranked No. 1 in the NFL in starting field position for a receiving team, with an average start at the 31.5.
Seven teams (San Diego, Kansas City, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Dallas and San Francisco) posted average starting field positions of no better than the 25. Wonder how theyll vote on the bring-it-out-to-the-25 proposal?
FOXSports Mike Pereira, formerly the NFLs vice president of officiating and now one of the top rules analysts in the game, is slated for a visit with Dan on The Dan Patrick Show tomorrow (Friday) on Comcast SportsNet.
Mikes got a great in-depth analysis of the rules changes, including the non-change expected to the Calvin Johnson Rule that saved the Bears in game one last season. Hes got a vote on each of the proposed changes and the best guess is that hell elaborate on each tomorrow with Dan.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.