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What Ryan Ficken Said About the NFL's New Kickoff Rule

Ficken 04.10

Kickoffs will look quite different in 2024.

The NFL Competition Committee passed one-year changes to the kickoff play after it was approved by owners during the Annual League Meeting in late March.

This will bring a big change to the formation and set up of the play, as the kicking team will line up at the opposing 40-yard line, with the receiving team's blockers five yards away.

Kickers are incentivized to kick into the "landing zone" between the goal line and its 20-yard line, and players cannot move until it is caught or hits the ground (for more details on the rule).

It will be a shift to that aspect of special teams, but Chargers Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken is looking forward for what it will bring to the game and the opportunities it will open up to make an impact.

"Ultimately what it's going to do is give an opportunity to keep some plays in for special teams, make that kickoff return a viable play," Ficken said meeting with beat reporters Monday. "I think it'll be an exciting play for the fans and for the players, I think they wanted it too.

"I think it's a great opportunity for them to go out and continue to make a big impact on the game," Ficken added.

Check out some photos of the Chargers Phase 1 Week 2 workout from the 2024 off-season program

The league saw a total of just 587 kickoff returns (1.1 average per game) during the 2023 regular season, with the Bolts having 18 as a team (17 by returner Derius Davis).

Ficken pointed out how returns will increase dramatically with the new rule, giving the core special teamers more chances to make tackles and plays in coverage as well as give returners a big increase in their touches over the course of a season.

And the Bolts Special Teams Coordinator said the opportunity for everyone to contribute more has the special teams unit "fired up".

"They want to cover kicks as much as they can," Ficken said. "That's what I love about our guys, because they are competitors. They want, 'Hey, we don't want the touchbacks.' They understand the situations that in some situations you need to go ahead and kick touchbacks. They want to play and put their play out there as much as they can on tape."

Ficken later added: "We're excited and eager to get out there and they're excited too."

The new rule brings changes to the way teams will approach kickoffs in every way due to the different formation.

With players starting at a standstill and no forward momentum, Ficken said there will be new techniques and strategies that teams will come up with as they try to get an advantage over one another.

And as is the case with every new rule, the approach for the special teams staff will be "very fluid" in every phase throughout the offseason and when the season gets going.

"My biggest philosophy is I want to put these guys in positions to be successful," Ficken said. "There will be a lot of moving parts in terms of trying to get that edge and learning it.

"There's going to be some growing pains in it, but we have a foundation of how we want to attack it and that's what we're trying to lean on," Ficken added.

Take a look back at the first week of the Chargers 2024 off-season program in monochrome

It's early in the offseason process, but Ficken is looking forward to continuously improve as a unit in every aspect and work to see what fits best for the Bolts with the new rule.

"We talked about our success and the things we need to grow and improve on in kickoff and kickoff return from last year," Ficken said. "Those things I think are still apparent that we can go ahead and use here."

"We just got to continue to enforce certain things, making sure they're penalty free," Ficken later continued. "All that stuff has definitely carried over in terms how we're going with our coaching philosophy and foundation."

Ficken later added: "There's some stuff we have to make sure we work out there in OTAs, practice and simulate as much as we can and see how it's going to look best for our team, what the make up is for our roster. I'm excited for that, it's going to be something we get to go ahead and attack and kind of do something that hasn't been done with it."

For the complete hybrid kickoff rules, click here.

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