(CBS) After kicking off from the 30-yard line on two first half kickoffs Saturday, Bears special teams coach Dave Toub confirmed that the NFL told them they had to move up to the 35-yard line for the second half.
“It came down from New York,” Toub said Monday. “They got word that we kicked from the 30 and we just went back to the 35 after that.”
One of the NFL’s new safety rules mandates teams kickoff from the 35-yard line instead of the 30, but Toub thought the Bears had received permission to kickoff from the 30 for Saturday’s preseason opener.
“We talked to the NFL beforehand during the offseason and they said it was going to be OK. That’s why we did it,” he said. “We thought we could do it. We thought we were clear with it. We told the officials ahead of time that’s what we were going to do and they were fine with it. So that’s why we kicked from 30.”
As was widely speculated, the motivation for kicking off from the 30 was to give the Bears’ special team unit some work covering kickoffs. Head coach Lovie Smith said after the game that kicker Robbie Gould can kick it into the end zone every time from the 35-yard line, which doesn’t help the coverage unit get work.
“We’re just trying to evaluate our kickoff team,” Toub said. “You don’t get any evaluation when you kick touchbacks. That’s what preseason is for. It’s about evaluation (and) about who can cover kicks and that’s all we were trying to do.”
Knox Viewed As Manning’s Replacement
Devin Hester will still be a part of the return game, despite not taking a return Saturday, but expect to see Johnny Knox in there on most kickoff returns. The Bears lost elite returner Daniel Manning in the offseason and Toub views Knox as Manning’s replacement.
“Certainly. That’s exactly why (Knox was in there),” Toub said. “We don’t have Daniel Manning anymore. Daniel got a lot of touches last year. Johnny can certainly fill that role. He’s a very good kick returner as you saw.”
Knox returned his only kickoff opportunity Saturday 70-yards and set the Bears’ offense up at the Bills’ 29-yard line. He also had a 13-yard punt return.