Football is changing. Player safety is bringing more fundamental changes to the game and purists will not like them. Teams will now be able to call a fair catch (inside the 25) and begin play on the 25-yard line, just as though the kick had been fielded in the end zone and downed. There will be fewer returns and fewer injuries. It remains to be seen if there will be fewer viewers.
Here is a description of the change from College Football Talk:
“Essentially, kick returners now have a 25-yard grace period for what amounts to a touchback. If the ball goes in the end zone, the offensive series will begin at the 25-yard line, unless the returner chooses to return the ball (in which case the ball is spotted where the returner is marked down with the ball). But now, a returner may wave an arm for a fair catch anywhere between the goal line and 25-yard line and down the ball immediately, only to have the offense start at the 25-yard line.
The rule is the latest attempt to ensure the safety of players on kickoff returns, which tend to be among the most violent plays in the game. It was just one of the rules approved by the rules oversight panel.”
Another change will also impact the game, this time it is blocking – here is the explanation from NCAA:
“The most noticeable change pertains to offensive blocks: The offense will not be allowed to block below the waist when the block occurs more than 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Additionally, other than the interior linemen, all blocks below the waist must be from the front.”