Carolina Panthers RB Raheem Blackshear's intent
Raheem Blackshear was a nice surprise for the Carolina Panthers last season. Those in power scooped him off the Buffalo Bills practice squad and the undrafted free agent caught the eye during limited carries when Steve Wilks implemented a run-first ethos in the immediate aftermath of Matt Rhule's firing.
Another area where Blackshear can assist is in the return game. The Panthers are running an open competition from the spot currently thanks to some decent signings including Damiere Byrd and Marquez Stevenson, which will be one of the most fascinating aspects to watch in the stifling heat that normally envelops Spartanburg at this time of year.
Not many were happy about the new NFL ruling surrounding kick returns, which was implemented on a trial basis in 2023 pending further evaluation. But according to Blackshear following a conversation with special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, the intent remains the same via Augusta Stone from the team's website.
"Coach [Chris] Tabor told me I better never fair catch it. So I have no plans on fair catching the ball at all. It's a rule to help people out; definitely going to decrease the chances of concussions and stuff. But me personally, I'm not fair catching. When we sat down and talked, he gave me some good tips about it [new kicking rule]. Told me that (the rule) is going to help some people, but said you're a tough running back, so I'll expect you to run it back."- Raheem Blackshear via Panthers.com
While making the game safer is always welcome, having any fair catch put on the 25-yard line seems a little excessive. It also completely equates any advantage teams might have in the kicking game - something that could impact the Panthers given how well punter Johnny Hekker performed last season.