NFL Rule Changes

New rules set by the NFL have sparked controversy.

Courtesy of CBS New York

New rules set by the NFL have sparked controversy.

Chris Rita, Sentry Staff Reporter

The beginning of the National Football League (NFL) season has brought a great deal of controversy, particularly over the recent rule changes. In past years, the NFL has placed an emphasis on safety, and this year, many believe they may have gone a bit too far. The regulations that have been constructed in the past few years focusing on the amount of violence in the game has in large part been attributed to the increased scrutiny over the effect that extended NFL careers has on the mental health of those who play.  

While injuries to the body can be debilitating and can destroy an already short career, injuries to the head have proven they can ruin lives by creating mental illnesses that carry on long into retirement. An effort to rid the game of head on collisions has been a priority as more knowledge surfaces regarding the consequences of numerous concussions. As a result, among the various new rules, the league has finally cracked down hard on players initiating contact with their head. Previously, the rules only applied to defensive players that used their heads to assist in tackling the ball carrier. With this addition of new guidelines, offensive players are prohibited from lowering their heads in attempt to run over defensive players.  

It only took about five years to make a rule that actually makes sense in regards to retaining player safety in the head and neck area. For years, the helmet has been used as devastating weapon that has taken players out one by one. Prior to the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) gaining attention, my dad and I used to look forward to a special segment on ESPN called “Jacked Up!” that highlighted the biggest hits from the previous week. Now, I cringe having to watch a player get hit in the head, knowing they will be concussed with permanent damage.

Creating new rules each season has become a formality in the NFL and most of the time they have little to no effect on the game. For example, this season alone, six new changes have been made to kickoffs and as a religious football watcher, I would not have known if it was not for looking them up to write this article. This year, however, the NFL negated all there productive rule changes with a new addition to the roughing the passer penalty. It states that the player tackling the quarterback must not land on the quarterback with most of his body weight. This adds to the already existing roughing the passer rule restricting when and where the defensive player can hit the quarterback, and it has raised the question when will the NFL take out contact all together?

Players that specialize in defense feel that the integrity of the game they love is slowly wilting away, and frankly, from a person that sits on the couch and has no experience playing contact football, I agree. With the addition to the new helmet rule, defensive players have to go through a safety checklist each time before making an attempt towards tackling the quarterback. How can you expect a player to completely alter his technique towards tackling an opponent for just one player on the field. Imagine a defensive player having to decide in a split second who he is tackling and then making the decision as to how and where to hit him.  In this day and age quarterback might as well where a different colored jersey and be deemed “untouchable” as they do in preseason practices. The NFL is a few years away from penalizing defensive players for having bad breath.

Already one defensive player this year has torn his ACL in attempt to avoid landing on the quarterback. Pretty much the exact opposite of the intent of the rule. Quarterback was already one of the safest positions in football, behind the kicker and the punter, and injuries typically only occurred to them during plays in which they scrambled outside their protected pocket which is where the penalty is most commonly called, so the rule is illogical.

It seems like for every positive step the NFL makes, they follow it up with two steps back. Considering recent declines in ratings due to less visually appealing gameplay, it is mind boggling that they would make a rule that makes the NFL more unwatchable.