The NFL is again tweaking the rules in the name of player safety. The planned and proposed changes have also spurred potential new uniforms to more accurately reflect the direction the game is going:
I know you’ve heard this by now–“might as well put skirts on ’em”–and it’s becoming more true by the year it seems. Among the new changes is an expansion on the “defenseless player” definition. It will now include the verbage “a quarterback at any time after change of possession”. I suppose this is meant to protect the QB from being a “target” by defenders after a turnover but what if he is trying to make a tackle? He can’t be blocked? If that’s the case, it’s taking things a bit too far now. At the rate their going, the NFL will be turning into the NFFL: the National Flag Football League. Don’t get me wrong, I get the player safety aspect. But the problem is in how the referees call the penalties.
In the the last few years the officiating has been atrocious and certainly not consistent. After a game in which Trent Cole was penalized 15 yards for grazing the helmet of QB Eli Manning, Andy Reid inferred that the penalty was kind of ridiculous when you consider that Eli was hit harder in the head by Peyton Manning in one of their commercials. It is that kind of officiating that is killing the sport. I also didn’t have a problem with the hit on Desean Jackson by Dunta Robinson. If you watch the play closely, Robinson never left his feet and hit Jackson mostly in the shoulder area. In the below video, freeze frame it at 23 seconds. There was slight helmet to helmet contact but the hit was to the shoulder/chest area yet there was a 15 yard penalty.
The Trent Cole penalty is an example of how ridiculous some penalties are and the Robinson penalty is an example of how difficult it can be for the referees to make accurate calls. How can we expect officials to make good decisions on whether or not to penalize if they only see it once, at game speed, and without the advantage of instant replay? The NFL keeps redefining the rules to where they are too convoluted and virtually impossible for referees to get the call right. Because of that, they are urged to err on the side of caution and just throw the flag. Fines and/or suspensions to players happen during the following week for questionable hits but those decisions are made with the advantage of having time to analyze the play. However, they can’t take back the 15 yard penalty and automatic 1st down that was levied during the game if they find that the hit was “legal”. And make no mistake, sometimes these types of penalties directly impact the outcome of a game.
Another rule change being proposed would impact kickoffs. The new rule would be to kick off from the 35 yard line (instead of the 30) and touchbacks would be brought out to the 25 yard line instead of the 20. The intent appears to be to significantly reduce kick returns as they believe many injuries happen on these plays. I guess we’ll have to rename these units as “semi-special teams”.
Football is a collision sport, injuries are going to happen. Players should be protected as best as possible but without dramatically altering the game. One solution is to make every player wear the new helmets that are made to reduce the risk of concussions, such as the one Jackson wore after the Robinson hit. Another solution is to make these types of penalties challengable. I’d rather have the game prolonged a little bit then have it watered down with an ever-growing list of rules.
You can further read about planned and proposed changes to the rules here. But just a warning, if you’re like me, you may find yourself reacting like this: