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Kicked Out?

!Dez Bryant missed the last four games of the season with an injury on the kickoff return.

really where this rule change is going to affect players the most.  

If you remember when it got passed, the guys who were most upset were Chicago's Devin Hester and Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs. We're talking about Pro Bowl players who make a living returning kickoffs. Of course, they're going to be upset. Now they're not going to lose a job, but they might not be the superstar player in the future that they've become in the past few years.  

Whether it's a clutch situation or not, what would prevent a team from giving any dangerous return specialist a chance to hurt them if they could simply kick off deep enough to force a touchback. And granted, not every kick off will be a touchback with these new rules, but I think we'll see less strategy and more focus on kicking it far and letting teams do their damage on offense.  

So maybe guys like Cribbs and Hester will still have a place. But look at the Cowboys. A guy like Titus Ryan, who was here last year and re-signed this offseason with a hope to make the squad primarily as a returner, is going to have an extremely uphill battle now.  

That's what he does - return kicks. Now he's trying to earn a roster spot when the NFL has basically devalued the position. 

And it's not just return guys, but cover guys, too. Why would teams continue to shell out decent contracts for guys like Sam Hurd or Danny McCray (when it's time for him to re-up his deal) when the kickoff play itself has been reduced in numbers.  

When it comes down to paring the roster to 53, don't think a few coaches and GMs or owners won't discuss the importance of this one special teams "ace" who always makes plays on kickoff coverage. But now he's making $1.7 million per season and they've got a rookie free agent from Oregon State who could come in and do pretty much the same thing for about $375,000 - knowing that they've got a good kickoff specialist who will get a touchback most of the time.  

See, some teams win games like that. Teams like the Jets and Bears, and sometimes the Browns. But teams with good defenses and playmakers on special teams, find a way to win games because of that X-factor.  

But with these rule changes, it's not just eliminating the play and possibly a few more injuries, but it's forcing teams to restructure its entire personnel makeup.  

Some might argue that it will force teams to ensure that they land a franchise quarterback. Maybe that's why we saw so many of them go off the board in the first two rounds of the draft this year.  

Because this new rule isn't just going to cut down on injuries. It'll probably cut a few veterans in the process.  

To me, that's not what a rule change should be.                        

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