In American and Canadian football, a kick returner (KR) is the player on special teams who is primarily responsible to catch kickoffs and attempts to return them in the opposite direction. If the ball is kicked into his own endzone, he must assess the situation on the field while the ball is in the air and determine if it would be beneficial to his team for a return. If he decides that it is not, he can make a touchback by kneeling down in the end zone after catching the ball, which gives his team the ball at their own 20-yard line to start the drive.
He is usually one of the faster players on the team, often a wide receiver, defensive back, or running back. While starters on offense or defense sometimes assume this role, it is usually given to backup in order to prevent them from spending more time on the field and taking extra hits.
A kick returner might also double as a punt returner as well.
Sometimes players who make big plays at the punt or kick returner positions become well known "return specialist" players (e.g.Patrick Peterson).
History and records
Devin Hester has broken Deion Sanders record for 19 kickoff return touchdowns. (Devin Hester's 20th was on 9/18/2014). On October 27, 2013, in a game against division rival Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff 109 yards for a touchdown. This is the longest play possible in the NFL.
Hall of Fame
Gale Sayers was an All-Pro running back who also returned punts and kicks for the Chicago Bears. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977. He holds the record for the highest kickoff return average at 30.56 yards per attempt. He also holds the record of return touchdowns at 2 in a game with many others, and he is often thought of as the greatest kick returner of all time.
Deion Sanders played cornerback for multiple NFL teams, but also specialized as a kick returner and a punt returner. Sanders is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2011. Sanders totaled 3,523 kick return yards in his career, including 3 touchdowns. Sanders was also an outstanding punt returner, averaging 10.4 yds per punt return and 6 touchdowns. Sanders held the record for most special teams touchdowns, 9 in total, until Devin Hester broke the record in the 2014 season.
The kickoff return has been widely labelled as maybe the most dangerous play in American football. The distances between players is greater, leading to bigger collisions. Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, has said he has "mulled" the idea of removing the kick off from the game. When the NFL moved the line of scrimmage on the kickoffs to increase touchbacks, many players felt it was a matter of time until they took out the play completely. Alternatives to the kickoff return have been suggested by many of the league's personnel.
For example, instead of a kickoff and return, the team receiving the ball would automatically start its drive from the 20-yard line. Another alternative was suggested by Greg Schiano, head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "After a touchdown or field goal, instead of kicking off, a team would get the ball on its own 30-yard line, where it's fourth-and-15," TIME 's Sean Gregory writes. "The options are either to go for it and try to retain possession or punt. If you go for it and fall short, of course, the opposing team would take over with good field position. In essence, a punt replaces the kickoffs." The proposal to remove the kickoff has also been met with criticism. Many feel that by taking away a significant and physical aspect of the game, it would radically change the sport entirely. Many players in the NFL consider themselves return specialists, and are signed to teams specifically for that purpose. If the return was taken out of football, many of these players could potentially be released.
- Rosenthal, Greg. "Roger Goodell mulls idea of eliminating NFL kickoffs". NFL.com. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
|Positions in American football and Canadian football|
|Linemen||Guard, Tackle, Center||Linemen||Tackle, End, Nose tackle||Kicking players||Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist|
|Quarterback||Linebackers||Snapping||Long snapper, Holder|
|Backs||Halfback (Tailback), Fullback, H-back||Backs||Cornerback, Safety, Halfback||Returning||Punt returner, Kick returner|
|Receivers||Wide receiver, Tight end, Slotback||Nickelback, Dimeback||Tackling||Gunner, Upback|
|Formations (List) — Nomenclature|