Dick Butkus: If NFL Bans Kickoffs ‘You’re Taking Away One of the Most Exciting Parts of Game’

By Matt Cover | December 12, 2012 | 2:50 PM EST

NFL legend Dick Butkus (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – NFL legend Dick Butkus on Wednesday did not express enthusiasm for the idea of banning kickoffs from professional football, but he did not totally reject the proposal either.

CNSNews.com asked him what he thought of it.

“Well, it's just the sign of the times," said Butkus. "I guess the game is really changing.

"If they have statistics, which they claim they do, that a lot of concussions happen on the kickoff--I mean, you’re taking away one of the most exciting parts of the game,” Butkus told CNSNews.com in an interview Wednesday.

Butkus said that the ban could really affect his Chicago Bears, who feature kickoff return specialist Devin Hester.

“As far as being a Bears fan, you’re taking away Hester,” Butkus said.

Butkus, a Hall of Fame linebacker with the Bears, defined the ferocious intensity now associated with the linebacker position during his playing days from 1965-1973. Butkus was at the Capitol attending a hearing on whether the NFL should test for Human Growth Hormone--a performance enhancing substance.

Butkus said that the proposed rules change from Commissioner Roger Goodell was a “sign of the times” in football and that if it would reduce injuries as its proponents claim, then it might be worthwhile.

“But if it’s for the right reason--the players’ safety--it would be different but I’m not totally against something like that making the game better,” said Butkus.

Asked if he was disappointed with the way the game is changing, Butkus said, “Well, I gotta get off my high horse and say that it was great when I was playing, and they’re not doing it the same way today. But it’s different times now. And I'm not adverse to making some changes, something that will help some of the players anyway. And that's what they are saying."

"They claim that, what, 30 percent of the concussions are on kickoffs. And it's kind of obvious, when you can get some speed up," said Butkus.

“Punting would change the philosophy of the game a little bit and the strategy--4th and 15 and all that business.”

When asked if such a change would be for the better or for the worse, Butkus responded “time will tell.”

Goodell – who has made concussion-prevention and player safety in general a hallmark of his tenure as NFL commissioner – confirmed in an interview with Time magazine that the league’s Competition Committee would consider a ban on kickoffs, instead giving a team the ball on its own 30 yard-line and making it 4th down and 15 yards to go.

The team could then either punt the ball away or try to go for the first down.