Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports

Matthew Slater acknowledges new kickoff rules will be an adjustment, but thankful play is still around

Ryan Hannable
June 06, 2018 - 8:38 am

Without the kickoff play, Matthew Slater may not have a career in the NFL.

The 32-year-old and seven-time Pro Bowler spoke passionately about keeping the play earlier in the spring when there were discussions of eliminating it to keep the game safer. In the end, the play was tweaked and a few changes were made.

Players on the kicking team cannot line up more than one yard behind where the ball is being kicked, which comes following the old rules when this was five yards. Players on the receiving team can no longer hit players until they cross the 45-yard line, so return players will now retreat back to the ball and then block. In addition, there will be no more wedge blocks.

“I am thankful — thankful that the play is still here,” Slater said Tuesday following the first mandatory minicamp session. “Obviously, that was something that was probably was going to be up for grabs, but I am glad that they worked it out and were able to keep the play.”

Many view the rules as benefiting the returner as there will be more space. While the special teams captain acknowledged there would be more room, he didn’t say it would benefit one side of the other.

“Well, it’s going to open the game up a little bit,” he said. “You don’t have two-man wedges. It’s going to give more space for coverage players and for returners, so it’s going to open the play up. Hopefully it makes the play more exciting and hopefully makes the play safer.”

The Patriots began to work on the new play for the first time in front of the media on Tuesday with doing some extensive work on kicking off. Based on Slater’s comments, it’s going to take some time to get used to.

“It’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment,” he said. “The spacing is going to be different. The timing is going to be different. I think there’s going to be some new techniques put in that we need to get used to. We’re going to take our time, try and figure things out. Try and get comfortable with the new techniques and kind of go from there.”

Given the new rules are new to everyone, it could take until the regular season before teams figure out exactly the best way to do things and could be a copy-cat thing where one team figures it out and other teams follow.

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