Why do NFL teams use different players to return punts and kickoffs?

Why do NFL teams use different players to return punts and kickoffs? Shouldn’t the faster, quicker, more skilled returner perform both duties??

They sometimes do (or did) A punt returner should have sure hands and cut on a dime ability.Why so many dbs get the call.They make a lot of catches in traffic.

The kick off man needs to read his blocking schemes and lanes better-more like a halfback.

And finally because of the chance of a lot more punishment on initial impact,esp.in pros,you’d hope you can find somebody that wasn’t a starter on offense.One of those bell ringers can keep you out for a couple of plays,if not more.

Well, the obvious answer is that the two assignments are different, so frequently different players will be best suited to do each.

Just because you’re catching a ball that’s been kicked doesn’t make the two jobs identical. As Lure pointed out above, the dynamics of the plays at reception are typically very different.

On a kickoff, the act of catching the kick is fairly simple and straightforward. The flight of the ball is predictable and the tacklers are going to be a long ways away from you at the outset. On a punt, catching the kick alone can be very difficult and very dangerous. A punt tends to be very unpredictable, both the initial direction and the total distance, not to mention the bounces if it should hit the ground. Also a well kicked ball can place the receiver immediately under duress.

So, just looking at the differences in catching the kick you should be able to see how its very likely that a different player would be best suited to do these duties. In the first case you might be more willing to select a player with less than exceptional hands or a tendancy to short-arm or flinch under pressure of contact in exchange for more speed, power-running, or elusiveness. On a punt you’d always take the sure-handed smart player, even if he perhaps isn’t as likely to break tackles. Remember, avoiding turnovers is almost always the first concern in making choices, and coaches will sacrifice a few yards of average in order to not give up the ball.

Next, look at the return (running) aspect of the plays. A punt returner is usually going to be catching a punt moving either backwards, laterally or at a stand-still. He really needs to be able to make a quick first move and accelerate very quickly. The kickoff returner however usually starts on a jog going directly upfield. He has the luxury of getting a few steps to get to full speed.

Consider your choices here, again you might allow for a player who’s less quick with slower acceleration for the kickoff if he’s stronger and more likely to break that first contact and has a higher top speed.

Lastly, the scheme for making the returns are different. In a kickoff the blocking is much more likely to be structured and organized. Plays are drawn up in a way that will allow the return man to know where his blockers are going to be going, and where the holes should be before the play develops. On the other hand, a punt is very fluid in comparison. Its fruitless to try and predict where the blockers and tacklers will be after the kick and where the ball will be kicked to. Theres a difficult to describe, but obvious to recognize, difference between a a skilled “north and south” runner and a talented “open/broken field” runner. Being good at one doesn’t make you good at the other, and a kickoff and punt are prime examples of each skill respectively. So you assign players who have skills that best suit each play, and as I hope I’ve managed to explain, a kickoff and a punt are two very different plays requiring different skills.

Good points all. I think it should also be added that, if you’ve got only one return specialist, you’re in some trouble if that guy gets injured (and it need hardly be said that kick returning is a high-risk occupation).

I’ve even seen some teams that change their punt returner depending upon whether the circumstance merits a good return or maintaining good field position.

Some teams will put in more sure-handed punt receivers at the expense of gaining yardage.

Well written, Omniscient.

The expanded roster that the NFL in implemented the past 10 years or so is another reason. An example of having to use your best player as a returner is Gale Sayers. In the 1960’s, rosters were limited to 40 players only, not 48 plus practice squad players like today. Besides being one of the premier running backs in the NFL, Sayers also returned kickoffs and sometimes punts. It was during a kickoff return his rookie season when Sayers suffered his first knee injury and a few years later, he blew out the same knee on a punt return. He was never the same and only lasted 5 years in the NFL. If all Sayers had to do was play running back on offense, his career would have probably lasted much longer.

A less obvious reason is that football coaches don’t always use logic when running their teams.