Through the years, the NFL has implemented a number of different rules to increase player safety, and has even gone so far as to consider taking the drastic step of eliminating kickoffs altogether.
And while the NFL hasn’t quite gone there yet, one level of football has: Pop Warner.
On Thursday Pop Warner — an organization which serves over 225,000 youth players ages 5 to 15 — announced that there will no longer be kickoffs in its three youngest levels, the Tiny Mite (ages 5-7), Mitey Mite (7-9) and Junior Pee Wee (8-10) divisions.
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Instead, the ball will be placed at the 35-yard line at the start of each half, and following scoring drives. And if you’re wondering, there is little doubt as to why the change is being made: To keep players safe.
The move comes at a time in which Pop Warner, a lot like the NFL, is under attack over player safety.
Pop Warner is banning kickoffs. Are Roger Goodell and the NFL next?
According to the AP report, Pop Warner recently settled out of court with a woman who claimed her son’s 2012 suicide was due to brain injuries suffered while playing youth football, and just this week a California teen who was paralyzed playing Pop Warner in 2011 passed away.
Simply put, it makes sense for Pop Warner to take this measure, and protect its youngest players, at an age where learning the fundamentals of the sport is more important than any one, specific rule.
The only question now is whether the NFL will eventually, someday ban kickoffs too.