Has The NFL Diminished The Game In The Name of Safety? (Poll)


Is there such a thing as being too safe? At home, we lock our doors, buy sophisticated alarm systems and even own guns. Our cars are  equipped with air bags ready to deploy

from every angle. Some newer cars even have sensors that alert us we are getting to close to a foreign object when we drive. Has it gone too far? No, probably not. After all, our world is not safe, and driving can be dangerous. In fact, Bus Drivers ranked number 8 in the list of ” The 20 deadliest jobs” .

How about in an occupation where a certain amount of risk is inherent to the job? Say, a policeman, firefighter, pilot, steel worker, or even a fisherman? Fisherman? Really? Yeah, really! In fact fisherman were number one, while firefighter, pilot, police officer and logger rounded out the top 5 deadliest professions.  Atlhletes were bundled in with entertainers and finished 13th on the list. Depicting an average annual salary of less than 45K, I can only assume the NFL was not included, or some drunken ametaeur Rock & Rollers falling off stage and rookie Bull Fighters really skewed the numbers. Yes, I realize “deadliest” sounds decieving, but injuries have been incorporated as well.

The question is…..should some risk be expected in certain professions? What if the pilot taxied from one city to another? What if the truck or bus driver drove a maximum of 5MPH? What if the tight walker had a net 3′ underneath him when he walked from one structure to another? My point is taking away the inherent risk of a job can sometimes spoil the purpose of the task. The airline pilot and truck driver are perfect examples. The same applies to the entertainment industry.

While I am sure the NFL takes serious consideration before changing rules and wants the players to be as safe as possible, I can’t help but wonder if  they have sacrificed important aspects of the game in the process. However, it is not just the league itself who take it upon themselves to make changes. I believe that the union, players and outside pressure has led to many changes. No better example can be found than the concussion issue that has become the focal point of player health.

Am I saying rule changes have diminished the entertainment aspect of professional football? Some cases yes, some cases, no. Am I saying the players should take unnecessary risks? CERTAINLY NOT! The players should have the most modern, safest products available.  I have often wondered why the NFL has not partnered with NASCAR in creating new headgear technology. In my opinion, no sport on earth is better at protecting the safety of it’s participants than NASCAR.

The question remains; has the integrity and nature of the sport of professional football been diminished at the cost of trying to protect players from getting hurt? It is a fair question. On one hand the league has a responsibility to protect the health of the players and on the other hand, you have to believe every one of these players knew the risks before signing up. Would you pay $100.00 to go to a boxing match where the fighters were encased in fluffy rubber suits and fought with marshmallow gloves? Maybe not the best of analogies, but the point is valid.

Below are some of the key rule changes as found in the NFL provided link of the history of NFL rule changes that have specifically been created in the  name of safety. Many of these rules are “subjective” to the individual opinion of the referee on that particular day; which is the main reason I don’t like many of them. When rule changes include terms like”flagrant” and “intentional”, problems and controversy is sure to ensue. But, you decide for yourself. Note that during Commissioner Goodell’s tenure, the number of rule changes have taken a dramatic upward turn.

1988: Intentional grounding rule is defined. This rule has been changed and debated for years. The current “outside the tackles” seems to work as well or better than the others. GOOD RULE

1989: Further clarified the roughing the passer rule by prohibiting a defender who has an unrestricted path to the quarterback from flagrantly hitting him in the area of the knee(s) when approaching from any direction. TOO SUBJECTIVE. How many bad calls have we seen concerning hitting the QB?

1992: Made it illegal on a running play for an offensive player who is lined up in the backfield at the snap to deliberately block (chop) a defensive player in the thigh or lower if the defensive player is engaged by an offensive player who was on the line of scrimmage. This action cannot occur whether on or behind the line of scrimmage in an area that extends laterally to the position originally occupied by the tight end on either side. GREAT RULE

Further clarified that when a defensive player runs forward and leaps in an attempt to block an extra point on a field goal it is a foul if the leaping player lands on other players. BAD RULE. As long as the player does not have any assistance (as in stepping on a players back), he should have the right to jump to block  the kick. Does this really keep people from getting hurt?

1995: Clarified and expanded protection for defenseless players. Since 1982, a defensive player was prohibited from using the crown or top of his helmet against a passer, a receiver in the act of catching a pass, or a runner who is in the grasp of a tackler. GOOD RULE

Defenseless players included a kickoff or punt returner attempting to field a kick in the air. GOOD RULE

2003: Eliminated the second consecutive onside kick inside the last five minutes of the second half. Huh?? HORRIBLE RULE! Makes no sense and protects no one. I cannot remember the last time I saw someone seriously injured during an onside kick.

2005:Penalized grabbing the inside collar of the shoulder pads to tackle a runner. BAD RULE. By this time the “horse collar rule” had been in effect for years. This rule expanded the definition of an already bad rule. Let me get this right! The NFL says  long hair / dreadlocks are  fair game to grab in order to tackle a guy, but don’t dare put your hand inside his collar.   Does that sound consistent to you?  IMO, a tackler should be able to make a tackle in any fashion whereas the intent to injure is absent.

Expanded roughing the passer rule by prohibiting low hits on the quarterback when a rushing defender had an opportunity to avoid such contact. Totally Subjective.  IMO, rules concerning tackling the QB have been the worst changes the NFL has ever incorporated. This is only one of many.

2008:Eliminated the foul for incidental grasp of the facemask. GOOD RULE

2009: Teams are no longer permitted to intentionally form a wedge of more than two players on a kickoff return in an attempt to block for the runner. For players intentionally forming an illegal wedge, a loss of 15 yards will be assessed. BAD RULE. IMO, the NFL overstepped their authority on how teams should try and formulate a kickoff return. It is still 11 on 11 isn’t it?

Low hits on the quarterback will continue to be strictly enforced. Specifically, a defender on the ground who hasn’t been blocked or fouled directly into the quarterback is prohibited from making forcible contact with the quarterback at or below the knees. HUH? The defender is not allowed to trip up a QB or grab his legs? HORRIBLE RULE! Agree with tripping, nothing more.

2010: Unnecessary roughness rules providing protection for defenseless players were standardized and expanded, specifically protecting the player who has just completed a catch from blows to the head or neck by an opponent who launches. Protection for kickers and punters during the kick and return were also expanded, as was protection for quarterbacks after changes of possession. GOOD RULE

2011: The restraining line for the kicking team is moved from the 30 to the 35-yard in an effort to increase touchbacks. QUESTIONABLE. The jury is still out on this one, but there is little doubt it will reduce the role of a specialized kick returner.  So far in preseason, teams have either taken the approach of a running start to try and return the kick from the end zone, or fair catching. My prediction is the kickers will attempt to kick the ball higher and shorter. The goal will become having the ball land between the 4 to 10 yard line with a hang time of 5+ seconds. This will result in good coverage from the kicking team and with limitedl options for the return unit.

All kicking team players other than the kicker must be lined up no more than five yards behind er their restraining line, eliminating the 15-20 yard running “head start” that had become customary for many players QUESTIONABLE

Ongoing QB Protection Rules: It just keeps getting more strict on hitting the QB. These set of rules disturb me the most. In my opinion, the general rules in the NFL favor the offense, and especially the quarterback. Why don’t they go ahead and dress the guy in a tu tu and put him in a bubble?

How many pass interference penalties have we seen when the defender barely touches the receiver or gets penalized for not turning their head?  How about all those bogus calls that kept a drive alive because a DE incidentally hit the helmet of a QB while trying to block a pass?? IMO, this is the worst set of rules in the game.  A close 2nd is being penalized 10 yards for holding! Come on man! The refs could call a holding penalty on virtually every play. The punishment clearly does not fit the crime.

So, there you have it. What do you think? Has the NFL gone too far in the name of safety? Have you ever wondered how many rules are enough? Will there EVER be a day when the lawmakers and rule makers say, “that is it, the game or laws are perfect?” Why do the rules always get more strict and take away from the game or society? Have you come to a conclusion? Let me give you mine.

Yes, the NFL has absolutely diminished the integrity of the game. Every year it gets worse and worse.  Let’s go ahead and play two hand touch and get it over with.  While I care about the health of the players, the rules should not change every year to make the game  “supposedly safer.” There is NO DOUBT playing professional football includes a high risk of injury and every one of the players are aware of the injury risks and get compensated accordingly. PLAY BALL!