Have the Patriots done enough to improve?
When Patriots captain and special teams ace Matthew Slater decided to return to the Patriots for another NFL season, he didn’t know the league would pass a new kickoff rule just weeks prior to his 16th camp.
“I’m just not convinced that our league is going to do what’s best for its players,” Slater said of the new rule. “I don't believe that this is truly in the name of player health and safety.”
The NFL’s new wrinkle, which has a one-year trial period in 2023, allows players to fair catch a kickoff return anywhere from the 25-yard line and in, and as a result their possession begins at said 25-yard line.
“We can talk about the Thursday night games, but that’s an easy one, that’s low-hanging fruit,” Slater began as he listed off some of the real issues that NFL players and retirees go through on a day-to-day basis.
“We can also talk about the issues that our players face once they leave the game. Why is it that we have to fight for healthcare beyond five years out of the game? Why is it that when players go to file for benefits, in terms of disabillty, they’re having to jump through hoops non-stop? Why is it that we’re continuing to fight the battle that we’re fighting about grass vs. turf?”
Slater doesn’t believe the new rule is actually about health and safety, but instead is being used as a pawn for the NFL to portray that they care. He finished off his reasoning with a mic drop:
“If we’re really concerned with player safety and health, let’s talk about some of the real issues that are going to impact player safety and health. Let’s not talk about a play where over 99% of the time, when the ball’s kicked off, is injury free. Those are the facts, those are the stats. You can go look ‘em up yourself.”