Thursday, March 17, 2011

New safety rules being considered

Ah, even with owners and players taking pot-shots at each other out of spite (I'm doing my best to avoid writing a whole post on the idiocy that is Adrian Peterson), we still cannot get away from the issue of player safety.

You have to roll to the second page of this article, but there are some pretty interesting pieces of information in it about proposals for rule changes that should make many of the more dangerous plays less likely to cause injuries.

Next week at their annual meeting, owners will consider a rules proposal to make one of football’s most dangerous plays, kickoffs, safer. Among the changes: moving the kickoff line to the 35-yard line from the 30, which would probably increase the number of touchbacks and decrease the number of returns. After a touchback, the ball would be placed at the 25 instead of the 20, where it currently goes to start a drive.

The rule change would also eliminate all wedges used in blocking and would not allow any member of the kickoff team except the kicker to line up more than 5 yards from the kickoff line. Currently, players line up as far as 15 yards behind the line to get a running start. The out of bounds penalty would be 25 yards from the kickoff line, the 40-yard line of the receiving team), instead of 30 yards from the line as it is now.

I can hear the grumbling from fans already, but the reality is that this really would remove a lot of dangerous plays from the game. Yes, we would lose several electric Devin Hester returns. And it would mean teams like the Chargers likely wouldn't miss out on the playoffs because the horror that is their special teams unit wouldn't likely off-set the incredible offense and defense they have.

But I'm sorry, if that keeps more players healthier, I'm for it. It's one of several steps needed to be taken in order to improve this game and the safety of the players involved, but it's a pretty big one (especially since it's a complete reversal of the rule to move the ball back in order to increase the likelihood of a return, instituted a few years ago). And regardless of fan grumbling about it now, two years from now, no one will likely remember it and say "Remember when we used to have all these kickoff returns before the NFL ruined itself?"


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