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Justin Tucker adjusting his game to NFL's new rules

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has to change his kickoff tactics after the National Football League revamped its rules
Justin Tucker
Posted at 5:36 PM, Jun 06, 2024

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — When you are commonly known as the greatest kicker to ever boot a ball in the history of the National Football League, nothing should really phase you. But for Justin Tucker there is a brand new wrinkle he must master in 2024.

It's not his field goal kicking game. We’re talking about the NFL’s new kickoff rule, which is drastically different from the days of old. The idea is to get rid of seeing kickoff after kickoff sail into the end zone

"This is going to keep the play in the game and this is not only going to keep the play in the game, it’s going to make it much more exciting," said Tucker.

Here are the basics: starting in the fall, on kickoffs, the kicking team will kick from it’s own 35 yard line. Ten members of the kicking team will line up on the receiving team’s 40. A minimum of nine members of the receiving team will line up between their own 30 and 35. Players must stay in position until the ball is either caught or hits the ground inside the 20-yard line, or is returned from the end zone.

"There’s going to be a lot more action as far as kicks that will be returned. In the last several years, the trend has been for most teams to send the ball into the end zone, give up the 25-yard line, and the play was essentially not happening as it was designed to happen, but now, in all likelihood, we’re going to see a lot more of returns, and it will give a lot more guys opportunity to take that play and make it a big play," said Tucker. "I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be really exciting.”

Head coach John Harbaugh said he had other ideas for kickoff changes but was "in favor of doing something".

"We see the good of it, the excitement in it. It’s going to be a lot more returns out there. We’re just trying to figure out how to be successful with the play, both covering the kick and returning the kick."

And kicking the kick. The new rule is similar to how the XFL played kickoffs. Tucker said about 25 percent of the time the XFL kicker was involved in tackling the returner. That might lead to NFL teams ditching their normal kicker on kickoffs for more of a, shall we say, 'built' teammate.

"It’s just a matter of do you have a guy that can kick it in there consistently and if you do it probably is an advantage because you get an extra tackler in there and you don’t put your kicker at risk," said Harbaugh.

Tucker is definitely thinking with his heart on this one.

"Hell yeah I want to be out there," he said. "Any chance I get to be on the field I’m living out my childhood dream. So, whenever, wherever that is, I’m going to make sure I’m ready to go."

Tucker added he has actually spent more time in the weight room this offseason. He joked he has to be prepared for a little more contact.

It's safe to assume that is a change no Ravens coach or fan wants to see.

Follow Shawn Stepner on Twitter @StepnerWMAR and Facebook