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Kickoff rule change hurts Browns

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Posted March 25, 2011 @ 11:04 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

The Browns were reportedly one of six teams to vote against the NFL's move of the kickoff line of scrimmage from the 30- to the 35-yard line. The rule change, which the NFL's competition committee suggested in the name of player safety, was not well received by Browns RS-WR Joshua Cribbs, who has more kickoff-return touchdowns (eight) than any other player in NFL history. Cribbs, speaking to NFL Network, said he had not seen any data suggesting that kickoffs were a major cause of injuries or that moving the line of scrimmage would cause a drop in injuries.

"I just don't see the relevance in the five-yard rule," Cribbs said. "All I do see is the lack of opportunity that will occur because of that rule."

The widespread sense is the Browns, who do not have a strong offense, are one of the teams with the most to lose because of the rule change. Although Cribbs did not take back a kick for a score last season and averaged a career-low 20.4 yards on returns, he is still one of the league's more feared returners. The rule is expected to lead to more touchbacks. As one league special-teams source noted, kicks that might have gone three or four yards deep into the endzone and might well have been brought out last season will now land close to the back of the endzone. The risk of being pinned inside the 20-yard line because of a tackle or a penalty returning such deep kicks is very apparent.

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