Monday, August 22, 2011

Player safety vs our viewing pleasure

It's interesting, the debate on the new kickoff rule. Everyone hates it. Matt Bowen of the Natl Football Post writes a piece on "Why the NFL’s new kickoff rule hurts the game". The Bears voted against it, then tried to veto the rule single-handedly on the field in their first preseason game. The league told them to cut it out. In that linked piece, Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports and Football Outsiders writes that:

"The rule seems like an overreaction built to take fun and excitement out of the game."
I agree that the new rule removes some fun and excitement from the game. I think the most exciting play in football is the kick return for a touchdown. The speed, the cutbacks as the guys weaves thru the entire defense. It's beautiful.

Have we stopped to consider how hypocritical we're all being?

We've been told that kick returns produce a disproportionate share of injuries, compared to other plays. Cutting down on kick returns is a player safety issue. Former NFL VP of officiating and current FOX Sports analyst Mike Pereira puts this succinctly, in an ESPN interview written up in another piece by Farrar:
Pereira was then asked if the rule could be changed back, which is where things got a bit squirrely. "I don't think so, and here's the issue — when you pass something for player safety reasons only, and you then go back on that, you're almost sending a message to the players that you don't care about player safety."
Yes. So what's more important, player safety, or our viewing pleasure?


  1. Kick from 33, eliminate all wedge blocking solves most of the issues at stake. JMHO.


  2. They made a wedge-blocking rule change last year, didn't they? Eliminate the 4-man wedge; I think the largest allowable wedge was 2 blockers. The officiating on that change seemed to be uneven.

    The change you recommend is an important one. But I still wonder if this play is not fundamentally different from other football players, just because the players have time to get up to a full head of steam before they ram into each other.

  3. I like the rule and am in favor of keeping it. Feel like a minority here, but this is part of the forced adaptation of the game, and I have no issue with it. Guys don't go to the Hall of Fame (mostly) because they return kicks really well. Does anyone really think of Devin Hester as a HoF'er?

    This feels close to the discussion from the other day. There will have to be changes to the game of football if the sport is to survive. I'm fine giving up stuff like this to protect the players if it means the pipeline at the kids' level doesn't get impacted.

  4. If they would wear the safest helmets, 90% of the issues would go away. The NFL refuses to mandate it.

    Yes, the eliminated 3-4 man wedges. Eliminate all of them. It still makes one sense for one guy to go flying fulltilt to take out 2 on a KR.

    I don't believe hits on KR are any different than WRs looking back at the QB arms extended while a S has a full head of steam. Or a S/CB/OLB going after an RB coming around the corner.


  5. I think the rule change that will have more effect on safety is the one limiting kickoff approaches to 5 yards. Less opportunity to get a full head of steam before first contact means less force from that contact.

  6. F = ma. By god I think he's right!

  7. But Naj -- when you mention hits on WRs -- yes, we've seen safeties line up killshots. But the NFL has legislated special rules governing "defenseless" players.
    On kick returns, it's not just the returner. Everybody on the field has the higher velocity etc. Gunners, wedge guys, everybody.

  8. Okay, point taken [but players on KR are not defenseless rite?], but the NFL has to decide if it wants to be football or flag football. It can choose either. Have you seen the new video on hits that are now illegal on the QB?

    Half+ of them are textbook hits even as recently as JANUARY!



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