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Fans offer their suggested rule changes

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With the new rules around kickoffs, we may never see a kick returner affect the game the way Devin Hester did.

That fact seemed to disturb a sizable group of Bears fans who responded to our request last week to submit their most desired NFL rule change.

Fans sounded off with the simple requests (a more forgiving definition of a catch) to the fantastical (five points for field goals over 50 yards). However, we couldn't get too far down the list before another fan voiced his or her concern about the rapid increase in touchbacks.

A plurality of fans (roughly 15 percent) centered their critiques around the kickoff, but solutions ranged from returning the old spot to pushing it back even farther to encourage more returns than previous eras. One all-caps response summed up the argument.

"Go back to the old kickoff rules. The thought of another Devin Hester or Deion Sanders would put more excitement back on kickoff."

The XFL's hybrid system, which is designed to create more returns but limit 30-yard, full-speed collisions, was generally popular, as was the idea to replace onside kicks with a single fourth-and-15 play.

Here are some other observations:

  • Surprisingly, the second-most unpopular rule was roughing the passer. Whether fans were advocating for the abolition of the rule, lessening its penalty or requiring replay on any call, there seems to be a fairly broad consensus that quarterbacks should get hit more.
  • Pass interference continues to be a league-wide bugaboo since the controversial call in the 2019 NFC Championship Game. Fans weighed in heavily on the rule but were split almost evenly between those who would tighten the restrictions and those who would loosen them, so we may have another long period of gridlock.
  • There was virtually no support among respondents for the series of rules enacted in the last decade to decrease injuries. Many fans sided with Eddie Jackson and Nick Kwiatkoski's thoughts about targeting. Some felt that unnecessary roughness calls have gone too far. One fan argued for the reversal of the 1962 rule creating the penalty for grabbing another player by the facemask. Some of these suggestions were more realistic than others.
  • Several respondents would like to decrease the play clock from 40 to 25 seconds. Based on the results in college football, where the play clock is already 25 seconds, the result would lead to more plays in general. In 2019, the Philadelphia Eagles led the league with 68.5 offensive plays per game and still averaged more than 10 fewer plays than the Ohio State Buckeyes.
  • Several people advocated for penalties on all late-game clock manipulation, including intentional grounding penalties for spiking the ball and outlawing the victory formation. Similar to the folks who want a shorter play clock, some people just want to see more football.

Below are some of the fan suggestions from last week's article:

Michael Berg
The back-to-the-future rule. Go back to a hitting football mentality of the '60s-'80s. Allow the rules to go back to the past for the first 10 minutes of the third quarter. Give the fans what they want: Hitting!

Rich Lockman
Remove the touchback rule where a player fumbles across the goal-line and out of the end zone and the other team gets possession on their 20. All other forward fumbles get placed at the spot of the fumble (when not recovered); why not in this case? I hate this. Nobody is trying to fumble forward for a touchdown! If there was a play where a player intentionally tried to fumble forward to another player, that could easily be found on review. Fix this please!

Brian Kerns
Eliminate "The Hester rule!" Make kickoffs fun again.

Will Ephrem
Safeties should be four points considering they are one of the rarest scoring plays in the NFL.

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