The NFL Competition Committee is holding the annual meeting to discuss possible changes to the NFL rulebook. One of the proposals, dubbed the “Hester Rule” would penalize teams for punting out of bounds, a common strategy for teams avoiding a place on the talented return man’s highlight reel. The Committee sent a survey to head coaches and general managers around the league and the response indicates there will not be a change anytime in the near future. As much the NFL would love to see the ball in Devin Hester’s hands more, the strategy and integrity of the game goes far beyond one man.
Punting out of bounds plays as big a role in a position battle on the field as it does avoiding talented return men. When your team can’t convert third-down at the opposing 40-yard line, punters earn their keep with their ability to place the ball on the sideline and trap the opposing team inside their own 20-yard line. Placing a penalty on teams punting out of bounds would change a huge aspect of the delicate chess match between coaches in the league. There are only a few potent offenses in the league that don’t have very many concerns about punting, but for the rest of the league it plays a huge role.
As much as the Bears would love to give the ball to Hester, with the possibility looming of an anemic offense, there will probably be games where the defense will score more points than the offense. Trapping an opposing team inside the 10-yard line with a good punt and creating a turnover is a key to victory for the Bears and many other defensive minded teams.
The committee voted down the rule change quickly enough that it probably will not become an issue in future years.