The NFL has received a lot of criticism over the last decade for the effects of the sport on the health of its retired players. Appropriately, commissioner, Roger Goodell, has taken drastic measures to make player safety a priority in his league. He’s done so, primarily, through alterations to the NFL’s rule book. The result is a different game entirely. Fines and penalties have convinced players to change the way they play. Now, coordinators find opportunities where they hadn’t before. The entire style of play has shifted to predominantly pass-oriented offenses, in large part, due to recent additions to the rule book, primarily installed to protect offensive, skilled players. Here are the three that infuriate me most.
1- HORSE COLLAR
Rule 12, Section 2, Article 1d
: All players are prohibited from grabbing the inside collar of the back of the shoulder pads or jersey, or the inside collar of the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, and immediately pulling down the runner. This does not apply to a runner who is in the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.
Note: It is not necessary for a player to pull the runner completely to the ground in order for the act to be illegal. If his knees are buckled by the action, it is a foul, even if the runner is not pulled completely to the ground.
To me, this is the rule that started it. Philadelphia Eagle’s wide receiver, Terell Owens
, was forced to miss the remainder of the 2004 regular season when Dallas Cowboy’s safety, Roy Williams, tackled Owens from behind, by the shoulder pads. The torque exerted on Owens’ knee tore his ligaments and snapped his fibula. The rule was changed the following year.
The horse collar rule eliminates nearly any chance a defender has to chase down an opponent after he’s broken the last line of defense. The result is even more big plays. Wide receiver, Mike Wallace
, was franchised by the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason despite just 72 receptions, a tally that is tied for 25th in the NFL
with Michael Crabtree. However, the rule change increases the value of Wallace’s speed to 1,193 yards (11th) off of those 72 receptions.
Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8i: It is an illegal launch if a player (1) leaves both feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into his opponent, and (2) uses any part of his helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/”hairline” parts) to initiate forcible contact against any part of his opponent’s body.
The NFL made the launching rule effectively places a ceiling on the amount of force a defender transfers in a hit. It’d be like putting a speed limit in NASCAR. Wit that rule the NFL eliminates certain tackles from the game. If an undersized player has to tackle a bigger guy or the offensive player is simply out of reach, now those plays simply do not get made.
Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9: It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture.
(a) Players in a defenseless posture are: (1) A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass; (2) A receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner. If the receiver/runner is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact of an opponent, he is no longer a defenseless player; (3) A runner already in the grasp of a tackler and whose forward progress has been stopped; (4) A kickoff or punt returner attempting to field a kick in the air; (5) A player on the ground at the end of a play; (6) A kicker/punter during the kick or during the return; (7) A quarterback at any time after a change of possession, and (8) A player who receives an “blindside” block when the blocker is moving toward his own endline and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side.
If you’re on the field, you’re not defenseless. That’s what makes things like “catch[ing] a pass” difficult. That’s what keeps it competitive! ”A quarterback at any time after a change of possession,” is quite possibly the most hypocritical sentence in the entire book. So if a quarterback throws an interception he can’t be blocked? He can still tackle. Now, the defense is playing 10 on 11.
If the entire player is in play and that player has possession then the entire player is tackle-able. To restrict which parts of a player’s body can be hit and how it can be done is to handicap the defense. There are no rules to restrict the manner in which an offensive player can initiate contact. So, it’s the defender’s responsibility to interpret the offender’s movements, react, and still make the tackle? Whether it’s a running-back initiating contact or a receiver absorbing it, when the shoulder is lowered so is the head. Helmet-to-something contact will inevitably be made. Injuries, even to the head, are unavoidable in the NFL. It’s an assumed risk their over-paid participants. The NFL hasn’t eliminated injury, they’ve eliminated defense. I understand that offense sells tickets; but, don’t say it’s in the name of player safety. Defenders have a right to protect themselves too.