New Rule Tackles Nothing
Two weeks into the preseason and I’m curious about how you feel regarding the new NFL rule on tackling? I started writing this piece firmly against the rule, but out of necessity and an attempt to try to be open-minded, I decided to look at other sides of the issue.
If you have not seen the new rule it reads as follows:
“it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. Contact does not have to be to an opponent’s head or neck area – lowering the head and initiating contact to an opponent’s torso, hips, and lower body, is also a foul. Violations of the rule will be easier to see and officiate when they occur in open space – as opposed to close line play – but this rule applies anywhere on the field at any time.”
The penalty for this infraction is 15 yards. However, there is a caveat in place for player ejection under this rule. The league outlined the following circumstances for ejecting a player:
“1. Player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet. 2. An unobstructed path to his opponent. 3. Contact clearly avoidable, and player delivering the blow had other options.”
Alrighty, everyone following that?
I would pay good money for a thorough explanation of exactly what “other options” players may have aside from blowing the coverage and waving fondly as their opponent sashays into the end zone.
It is not a secret that the No Fun League has settled with a group of approximately 1,000-1,500 people to the tune of more than one-billion dollars. Sources estimate that this is just the tip of the iceberg. So, anyone suggesting that the NFL cares deeply for the wellbeing of the players gets a colossal eye-roll (and quite possibly other gestures) from me and many other fans. I won’t debate the benevolent spirit of the powers that be in the NFL. This is about making money as well as attempting to block future lawsuits.
Proponents of the rule cite the impending extinction of the NFL if the game does not conform to a refined and safer style of play. They have a thin string of logic which says as players succumb to head injury related ailments, prospective players will shun the NFL, perhaps opting to learn macramé or interpretative baton twirling. The talent pool will dwindle and fans will wander away to seek amusement elsewhere, my bet would be the NHL, but I digress. Finally, parents of children with interest in football, will bubble wrap little Tommy and Timmy and hustle them away to learn macramé or that baton twirling thing. The result is the end of the NFL. I’m not saying this is impossible, and in fact, there are declines in football in younger age groups. It all seems a bit of a reach to me.
What are other fans saying about this new addition to the unabridged collection of game delaying, momentum killing, fun obliterating NFL rules? I’ve spoken with a number of fans about this rule recently and I did not hear anyone applauding this decree. When I asked for an opinion that I could quote, life-long Browns fan Austin MacAdam gave no hesitation when he said, “Ridiculous!” he went on to make the point that a rule like this is changing football. Another long-time fan, John Harcar, was speaking of the players when he said, “If they don’t want to play, no one is making them.” He also pointed out that the players know the risks when they suit up. I’m inclined to agree.
To be clear, many of the rules in place for player protection are sound and smart. No one should tackle by grabbing a face mask or make a direct head-to-head shot in the open field. Random acts of violence after a play has ended should be grounds for ejection. I just do not see how another rule with such free-floating parameters will ensure player safety.
What about you, Cleveland, any thoughts about this new reason to wave yellow flags on Sunday? I, for one, will be popping extra corn and buying more ice, the game is going to get a little slower.