Bears ‘trying to figure out strategically’ how NFL’s kickoff rule changes things

Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower has studied college tape and brainstormed with his staff. Ultimately, though, he’ll have to see the NFL’s new kickoff rule applied in games — preseason or otherwise — to have a true sense of how it changes strategy.

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Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower shouts during a game against the Texans.

Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower shouts during a game against the Texans.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower has studied college tape and brainstormed with his staff. Ultimately, though, he’ll have to see the NFL’s new kickoff rule applied in games — preseason or otherwise — to have a true sense of how it changes strategy.

Last week, the NFL voted to allow all fair catches of kickoffs before the 25-yard line to result in teams getting the ball at the 25. The goal is to reduce the amount of contact on kicks, but many around the league fear it will accomplish the opposite. Teams will experiment with popup kicks, squibs and other ways of trying to force upbacks make a decision. Blockers will still make contact with members of the kickoff team.

The Bears voted against the proposed rule, a source said last week.

“We’ve discussed as a staff what we think the rule is going do in terms of us basically schematically planning for it,” Hightower said. “That’s really where we are on the situation right now. Health and safety is the number one priority for us, the NFL, for everyone. ... At this point, what we are trying to do is trying to figure out strategically how to attack the situation and the best ways to win the ball game.”

That includes studying the college game, which has employed the rule.

“It’s the returner’s decision to fair catch it or not. ...” Hightower said. “I don’t think I’m going to lose a lot of sleep or gain a lot of sleep either way on it. I’m just ready to play ball on it.”

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