Football is a very brutal sport. We have all witnessed some vicious hits over the years. Who doesn’t love those hard-hitting linebackers and defensive ends when they attempt to take the head off of a quarterback? We cringe when we hear that crunch as their pads meet, but secretly, we love that sound. But with that sound, injuries happen. Players go down and we all pray they get up on their own accord. When that next play is in motion, we cheer all over again for more vicious blows. Because of this behavior, the National Football League has added new rules to try to limit the injuries the men sustain.
However, I ask you this: are they trying to emasculate the game of football?
There have been some very serious injuries, one I remember quite well. The night I gave birth to my second daughter in November, 1992, we were watching the New York Jets play the Kansas City Chiefs. Dennis Byrd rushed to sack the quarterback and he collided with his own teammate, breaking his neck during the play. Fortunately, Byrd walked again, after intensive therapy, but would never play another down of football.
Injuries such as this one are few and far between, but they do happen. Only three players, in NFL history, have died during a game, Howard Glenn (1960), Stone Johnson (1963), and Chuck Hughes (1971.) Sidenote: the Dallas Cowboys have never lost a player during a game, nor have they lost an active player to death. There is a more common, less serious injury, the concussion. It seems like every year, the number of head traumas continue to rise. So, to counter the increase in such injuries, the NFL powers-that-be decide on how the game should be played by inventing new rules, or maybe, tweaking and enforcing existing ones.
According to NFL data obtained by The Associated Press, 154 concussions that happened in practices or games were reported from the start of the preseason through the eighth week of the 2010 regular season. That is an increase of 21 percent over the 127 concussions during the same span in 2009, and a 34 percent jump from the 115 reported through the eighth week of the 2008 season.
In March 2012, the NFL owners voted on and passed the following change for the fall season (I mention only the rule that speaks to my theory): (1) Expanding the defenseless player rule to protect defensive players on crackback blocks, making it illegal to hit them in the head or neck area. Fellow writer, Johnathan Barger, reviews all 2012 rules here.
Rules enacted during previous seasons:
- Kickoffs: Due to an increasing number of injuries on kickoffs, several rules have been changed to make those plays safer for both the kicking and receiving teams. The kicking team’s restraining line has been moved to its own 35-yard line. The kicking team formation for kickoffs has also been adjusted so all players other than the kicker must be lined up no more than five yards behind the restraining line.
- Existing unnecessary roughness rules have been standardized and protection for defenseless players has been expanded, including additional safeguards for defenseless receivers, players who receive “blindside” blocks and quarterbacks, kickers and punters on changes of possession.
- Illegal “launching,” which has been defined as a player leaving both feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into an opponent and delivering a blow with any part of the helmet, has been prohibited.
- Roughing the passer rules have been clarified so hits to the head of a passer by an opponent’s hands, arms, or other parts of the body will not result in fouls unless they are forcible blows.
- All rules that encourage player safety will continue to be strictly enforced, including runners grasping the facemask of defensive players, horse-collar tackles, chop blocks and clipping. The focus will be on eliminating these tactics from the game.
- Helmet removal: If a ball carrier’s helmet comes off during a play, the ball will immediately be blown dead.
- Good sportsmanship will continue to be emphasized. The use of abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures directed at an opponent or an opponent’s bench is considered taunting and will result in a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Game officials will pay particular attention to in-the-face taunting of opponents.
The Cowboy’s very own Roy Williams has a rule named after him due to his tackling opponents by grabbing the shoulder pads. The horse-collar tackle was created because Williams had injured four players during the 2004 season. NFL owners voted 27-5 to ban this type of tackle. Ironically, or possibly not, the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints were two of the five teams who voted it down.
If that video doesn’t want to make you get up and yell, you may want to re-evaluate your manhood. Rules are in place to protect the players, I get that. I’d venture to say, though, that roughing the passer/kicker, personal fouls, unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct, spearing, launching, are all subjective in the eyes of a referee. I have watched many a quarterback running for his life, get laid out, and never get the flag thrown, but then (cough, cough) Peyton Manning gets brushed on the arm and it’s a 15 yard penalty plus an automatic touchdown for good measure. It’s almost getting to the point the players will be penalized for breathing too heavily in the direction of the running back.
Many of the rules may be necessary, but my contention is that it takes away from the reasons we love to watch this game. If you spend any amount of time watching a football game, you understand the brutality. Don’t get me wrong, I never want to see a player go down with a career-ending injury. But, truth is, we humans like violence and aggression. That’s why we watch the game because of the brutal hits, the upending of a wide receiver, or the flattening of a quarterback. Be honest, you love it or you would be watching tennis. The NFL powers are, in all truth, a bunch of lawyers. What in the world do THEY know about playing football? Stick to deciding where the Super Bowl will be played in 2016 and let the players work it out on the field. Stop emasculating this game we love.
P.S.: After I wrote this article, the following news story came out about the New Orleans Saints bountygate. It doesn’t change my stance, but I do not condone inflicting physical injury on said football players.