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Are NFL rule changes for safety necessary?

Post by Eric Williams on March 24, 2009 at 12:11 pm with 12 Comments »
March 24, 2009 12:11 pm

The NFL announced today that league owners passed four player safety rules that will go into effect next season during meetings in California this week

The first is the elimination of blindside, helmet-to-helmet blocks.

According to the report, new rules state that the initial force of a blindside block can’t be delivered by a helmet, forearm or shoulder to an opponent’s head or neck. An illegal blindside block will bring a 15-yard penalty. Check out the block by Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward on Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers and you’ll understand what the owners are getting at here.

League owners also passed a rule that prohibits initial contact to the head of a defenseless receiver, that also will draw a 15-yard penalty. The hit to Anquan Boldin was a catalyst for this move.

On kickoffs, no blocking wedge of more than two players will be allowed.

And lastly, the kicking team can’t have more than five players bunched together pursuing an onside kick. ESPN’s John Clayton has a full report here.

Are these rule changes necessary? Perhaps. I’m assuming the owners have looked at statistics that point to more injuries occurring during these type of scenarios, and that’s why they are installing these new rules.

I think the elimination of any helmet-to-helmet contact on blocking and tackling plays is appropriate.

However, I do believe the more rules you put in place, the more players are thinking on the field instead of playing with instinct, and that to me is when you’re going to have more injuries.

I don’t think the Hines Ward hit was dirty. That’s what happens as a football player if you don’t have you’re head on a swivel and are not aware of your surroundings. And most guys grow up being taught to know where guys are around you. Ward wasn’t trying to hit Rivers in the head. Neither was New York Jets safety Eric Green when he hit Bolden.

I think the changes on kickoff and kick returns also take away from the excitement of the game. Not being able to shift to one side of the field to overload on one side will make it harder to recover onside kicks during close games.

The five-man wedge has been used for decades because it makes it easier to break longer runs on kick returns, but again the owners made the move because of the injury concerns.

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Leave a comment Comments → 12
  1. monmornQB says:

    Why do these guys still wear pads? before we know it it’ll be like watching basketball with more whistles than actual plays. At this rate baseball will end up more popular than football again because it will be a faster paced game.

  2. BrianBlades says:

    Ward has a history of hitting guys in the head just like that, the Rivers hit wasn’t a one-off for him…he gets the fines to prove it.

    There are too many rules because players like Ward and officials looking the other way until later in the week when a financial penalty is attached.


    I know it’s a cliche, but hey it’s true. Let them play ball. Injuries are part of the game. I for one am not advocating for cheap and dangerous hits, but Football is a dangerous sport regardless.

  4. actually I don’t think that hit would draw a penalty.

    He led with his forearm but hit his shoulder first not his neck or head.

  5. How is a five man wedge dangerous? DUMB DUMB DUMB!!!

  6. i think there are several money reasons the league and owners want the no helmet to helmet contact on WR.

    the first is that the league loves offense for ratings, and while the blindside block thing will only affect one or two plays a game, the WR helmet rule will be in play a lot. if safeties and linebackers in the middle of the field have to be careful where they hit the crosser it will slow them down a tiny bit (in theory) and open up more offense with repeated applications each game.

    second is that as collective bargaining is coming up, and players in retirement have been asking (rightfully so probably) for more money and better health benefits, it is in the long term financial interest of the league to be a little careful on the field and avoid head injuries that might affect long term health of retirees.

    i also love the big hits, and am a defensive fan myself and so my reaction is to dislike the rule. but the truth i think is that the other cliche “bigger faster stronger” regarding the development of the players with year round workouts and nutrition is true. with that in mind, i think rules like this are ok as long as to counter it the league is not anally strict and the refs get told to use discretion, like when a WR ducks at the last second and there is helmet to helmet contact, or a guy is pushed into a LB from his blindside.

  7. i’m ok with these proposed rule changes (though the five-man wedge rule doesn’t make much sense to me) – i like the hitting in pro football too – but it’s really the passing, catching, running, juking, and overall speed/athleticism of the game that draws me in. I love seeing a DE beat a T and sack the QB, or to see a OL pancake a guy in a face-to-face block, but I mostly cringe when I see replays of a guy taking a blindside hit to the head. Just my two cents.

  8. sherminator says:

    Guys who are complaining – what will it take for you to agree that targeting the head is bad for football? Do you need to see somebody die on the field?

    There are many players who substitute trying to knock somebody unconscious for good defensive play. Targeting a player’s head in an attempt to stun him into dropping for fumbling the ball is not good football. Putting a shoulder into the torso and wrapping up is what a good tackle should be. I get tired of seeing guys launch themselves shoulder (or head) first into runners expecting to knock them down. I think these rules will help make tackling better by making it less rewarding to attempt the “big hit”, and make defenses better. If players get suspended every time they give another player a concussion, maybe there would be fewer sad stories for retired players.

    Or if the public still wants hits to the head, then take away helmets. I played rugby for many years, and let me tell you, tacklers don’t use the heads to lead, because they end up being the ones laid out.

    I like football because it is hard hitting, but there is a difference between hard hitting and head hunting.

  9. monmornQB says:

    I get the blind side head hunting type of rules but some of these are just silly. No wedge on kick offs? Long kick offs are exciting. I hope everyone is ready for drives to start at the 15 yrd line on a reg basis. What kind of $^!+ is that? Or banning the onside overload? So if your team is down as the game is coming to an end the game might as well be over.
    Again I get the safety concerns and agree w/ prohibiting cheap head shots, but some of these rule changes are garbage..

  10. Dukeshire says:

    I agree that no more than a 2 man wedge and no more that 5 players bunched together for an onside kick is retarded.

  11. i don’t think wedges are that great anyway so its not a big deal. teams can just put 2 on 1s where they want to attack.

  12. OK, the rule’s not ‘blindside tackles’, but blindside “blocks”, leading with head, forearm or shoulder to the back of the head. When did it become legal to block in the back anyway? Presumably, it’s still OK to tackle that way, just not to block that way(?) I also thought there was a rule against spearing, leading with the helmet.

    To reduce neck injuries, helmets could be attached to the shoulder pads continuously with thrust bearings, allowing the helmet to rotate. The only slight problem is also getting the helmet to swivel so you can still look where you’re going.

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