Last week saw the National Football League make eleven (11) rule changes including issues involving replays, kickoffs, onside kicks, and hits to the quarterback. Viewed as a whole, the rule changes reveal a concerted effort to reduce injuries to players. Some critics contend, however, that the rule changes will water-down the physical aspects of the game, likening future NFL play to flag football. But to the owners, the players are their most valuable assets, and protecting them, and avoiding the sight of players being taken off the field strapped to stretchers is understandably paramount.
The new rules are also consistent with the NFL’s concerns about concussions and how to treat them. Here are the rule changes that seem to be most closely designed to reduce injuries:
1. A 15-yard penalty for delivering a blindside block with a helmet, shoulder or forearm to an opponent’s head or neck.
2. Contact to the head of a defenseless receiver will also draw a 15-yard penalty.
3. A defensive player on the ground may no longer lunge or dive at the quarterback’s lower legs. (aka “The Brady Rule,” a direct reaction to Bernard Pollard’s (formerly) perfectly legal hit that sidelined Tom Brady for a full year.
4. Forming a “wedge” on a kickoff return is no longer legal. If three or more players line up shoulder-to-shoulder within two yards of each other, it will be a penalty.
5. On onside kicks, the kicking team can’t have more than five players bunched together.