NFL Rule Changes Stir Controversy

The NFL recently updated helmet and roughing the passer rules with an emphasis on player safety.

After a tough year of high profile injuries, the NFL felt the need to update the rules about hitting. First, the league decided to change the rules by calling a tackle that was led with the head illegal: “a player will be penalized 15 yards and potentially fined or ejected for lowering his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent” (ESPN, McManus).

The NFL continued to strike by changing the roughing the passer rule because of the season ending injury Aaron Rodgers suffered last year. The rule change continues to penalize any player who hits the quarterback after releasing the ball and also penalizes anyone who lays all or most of their weight onto the passer when tackling.

“When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless position, a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down or land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight.” – NFL Rulebook: Rule 12

These penalty calls in the pre-season have made NFL fans and players scratch their heads. Prominent players like 49er’s cornerback Richard Sherman have vehemently spoken out against the rule, proclaiming that the game we all know and love “will be flag football soon.”

Just look at this example of the new rule:

Anyone who has played organized football has to be scratching their heads in dismay. That is the most normal tackle I’ve ever seen, and especially by no means a dirty play. This is what happens when you let league hacks in the NFL office dictate how to play football, instead of the actual players themselves. Ravens safety Eric Weddle said it best on twitter: “The fact that rule changes are made without the thought of asking the player who play us baffling to me. Dumb dumb dumbbbbbb.”

We have seen the NFL take many measures to protect quarterbacks, like penalizing defenders for hits below the knees, hits to the head, and now the new roughing the passer rule. While some of these rules have proven helpful, league officials may have crossed the line with this recent addition to the rulebook. It’s important that the NFL remembers that QB’s are still football players and part of the game is the ability to be tough and take a hit.

The NFL competition committee held a conference call today to discuss the new helmet rules, and announced that there will be no immediate changes to the rules.

Professional football players have played long enough to turn protective wear such as helmets into more of a weapon on the field. As a prevention to theses dangerous head to head collisions, coaches would teach new methods for tackling such as hawk tackle.

The hawk tackle is a rugby style tackling technique that the Seattle Seahawks adopted about four years ago. The method teaches players to lead with their shoulder and put their head to the side, and as they “Wrap n’ roll,” to finish the tackle. The Hawk tackle is the premier example of a safe tackle, as it helps prevent concussions by attempting to completely remove the head from the hit. Unfortunately, many players still end up throwing themselves at other players head first; these moments can be very deadly, injuring many victims and sometimes ending careers. Ryan Shazier is one of the biggest victims of an unsafe tackling as he almost paralyzed himself last year whilst making a perilous tackle attempt.

The outrage that these new rules have generated feel very similar to the “what is a catch debate” from last season. If these penalties are called on a regular basis when the season starts up, the NFL will have to take similar action and clarify league rules mid-season. NFL fans, don’t panic; while the owners and Goodell are dubious about making decisions based on fan and player input, at some point they have to listen to the masses who supply the fanbase and talent for the league.

-Cole and Jackson


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