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Pats' Slater questions NFL's reasoning for kickoff rule change

Maddie Meyer / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Matthew Slater, one of the NFL's biggest special teams stars, believes the NFL is being hypocritical by using player safety as the reasoning for a rule change that will see fair catches on kickoffs bring the ball to the 25-yard line.

"I understand we want to reduce head injuries and things of that nature, but we don't always act as if player health and safety is paramount," Slater said Wednesday.

He continued: "We can talk about the Thursday night games. That's an easy one. That's low-hanging fruit, but we can also talk about the issues that our players experience once they leave the game. Why is it that we have to fight for health care beyond five years out of the game? Why is it that when players go to file for benefits in terms of disability, they're having to jump through hoops nonstop? Why is it that we're continuing to fight the battle that we're fighting about grass versus turf?"

Commissioner Roger Goodell mentioned last week that the rule change stems from data that shows higher injury rates on kickoffs. However, Slater has his doubts about the league's analysis.

"We all know data can be skewed and projected in any way you want to slice it up," Slater told reporters, including ESPN's Mike Reiss. "It's clear to me that they're making an effort to eradicate this play."

Slater, who has made 10 Pro Bowls as a special teams player over his 15-year career, believes the NFL is more concerned with its perception than safety issues.

"I just don't believe this is truly in the name of player health and safety," Slater explained. "What I do believe is, we want to portray ourselves a certain way to the public that says we care about the players."

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