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WHEN THE TAILGATE DROPS, THE BULL SHIRT STOPS!

The kickoff likely continues to be on the endangered species list. And it may simply be a matter of time before it goes away.

As FOX rules analyst (and former NFL V.P. of officiating) Mike Pereira said on Friday’s PFT Live (imagine that [url=http://www.buccaneerscheapstore.com/chris-conte-jersey-cheap]Chris Conte Jersey[/url] , a football show willing to talk about football rules), kickoff returns likely will increase under the new kickoff configuration, which is aimed at making the kickoff more like a punt. The goal, as Chad Dukes of 106.7 The Fan in D.C. put it during a PFT visit to his show earlier this afternoon, could be to make the new kickoff play more like nicotine gum, with the league weaning itself from the kickoff return and, more importantly, preparing fans for the inevitable scrapping of the kickoff altogether.

The question becomes whether there will be a reduction in concussions. Packers CEO Mark Murphy (a dad who is threatening to turn the car around but actually means it when it comes to getting rid of the kickoff) has said that players are five times more likely to suffer a concussion during a kickoff.聽So what is the acceptable ratio to save the kickoff?

No one seems to know, and if they know they won’t say.

The punt isn’t a problem because players don’t have the same opportunity to collide at a high rate of speed and [url=http://www.saintscheapstore.com/patrick-robinson-jersey-cheap]Patrick Robinson Jersey[/url] , in turn, with a high degree of momentum. That’s the play to which the new kickoff should be compared, when it comes to charting concussions.

So if the kickoff-sort-of-punt becomes as safe as the punt, the NFL can keep the kickoff-sort-of-punt. If not, the NFL can replace the kickoff with a 4th-and-15 play from the 30 or 35 of the kicking team, allowing the team to punt (simulating the kick) or go for it (simulating the onside kick).

Or the NFL, as Pereira puts it, can put the ball on the 25 in lieu of a kick/punt and give the kicking team the ball in a 4th-and-15 scenario for onside kicks. The only problem with this approach? It removes the ability to replicate on of the most memorable moments in Super Bowl history: The surprise onside kick to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV.

The Pittsburgh Penguins battled back to force overtime and picked up a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, who still got the point they needed to clinch a playoff spot for the second straight season.

The Penguins answered every Columbus goal in regulation before Phil Kessel scored 1:06 into overtime to get the 5-4 victory in a tight game before an amped-up sellout crowd.

”We were resilient tonight [url=http://www.chargerscheapstore.com/jahleel-addae-jersey-cheap]Jahleel Addae Jersey[/url] ,” Kessel said. ”We’ve been here before.”

Columbus entered the game needing one point in the standings and earned that when it forced the overtime. They’ll go to the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history.

”It’s a little bittersweet because it’s Pittsburgh, and you don’t want to lose to them,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. ”But in the big picture for our team, for our guys, I am really happy for them.”

The Penguins and Blue Jackets are second and third place, respectively, in the Metropolitan Division with playoff positioning not likely to be settled until this weekend.

Columbus is tied with New Jersey – which beat Toronto on Thursday – with 97 points, but the Blue Jackets hold the tiebreaker.

Conor Sheary tied the game at 12:16 in the third period to set up the overtime winner by Kessel, whose shot from the left circle was his second goal of the game and 33rd of the season.

Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang also scored [url=http://www.packerscheapstore.com/jason-spriggs-jersey-cheap]Jason Spriggs Jersey[/url] , and Matt Murray had 26 saves for Pittsburgh, which completed a 4-0 season sweep of Columbus.

”We have such great leadership,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. ”These guys, they play their best when the stakes are high. They’ve proven it time and time again.”

Zach Werenski, Matt Calvert, Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson scored for Columbus, and Sergei Bobrovsky had 38 saves.

Werenski put the Blue Jackets up 1-0 five minutes into the game when he gathered a centering pass from Pierre Luc-Dubois and backhanded the puck between Murray and the near post. Kessel went top shelf over Bobrovsky on a power play to tie it at the halfway point of the first period.

A few minutes later, Calvert danced around Penguins defenseman Olli Maata and lifted a shot over Murray’s shoulder . Hornqvist knotted it again at 15:35 when he batted a bouncing puck past Bobrovsky’s glove.

The Blue Jackets scored on a power play in the second period when Jenner connected from the slot off a sweet centering pass from Thomas Vanek.

Early in the third period, Pittsburgh tied the score yet again when Letang clanged one in off the top bar from the right circle. Atkinson made it 4-3 when he poked a shot in from the doorstep 8:25 into the third.

Sheary tied the score again with a shot that Bobrovsky deflected with his glove.

”We showed a lot of character there [url=http://www.chiefscheapstore.com/chad-henne-jersey-cheap]Chad Henne Jersey[/url] , finding ways to hold on and get back into it,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said.

”They’re a team that really builds on leads, especially at home, so we did a good job of finding ways to get ourselves back in it and even it up pretty quick.”

NOTES: Pierre-Luc Dubois tied Zach Werenski’s rookie single-season point record with 47 and pushed his point streak to a career-high eight games. … Artemi Panarin, with assists on two of the goals, also has a five-game point streak. He has a franchise-record 82 points this season. … Hornqvist has four goals in the past four games. … Columbus defenseman Markus Nutivaara missed his second game with an upper-body injury. … Columbus F Josh Anderson returned after missing 17 games with a knee injury. … Pittsburgh F Derick Brassard missed his fourth game with a lower-body injury.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh: Hosts Ottawa on Friday night to finish regular season.

Columbus: Ends regular season on Saturday night at Nashville.

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