Issues in the NFL: Player Safety

kam_chancellor

Does anybody know what constitutes as a legal hit anymore? I’m sure the NFL Front Office easily defines it. However, the referees’ interpretation during on-the-field play shows there may not be much agreement on “legal hits” among the pool of officials.

Now, the term “defenseless player” is clearly defined, yet really confusing. Plus, the rules of contact with a defenseless player (and quarterbacks) are even more confusing.

Many receivers argue in favor of taking hits above their waist (and below the neck) rather than below their waist in the efforts to decrease leg injuries. But, the NFL’s rules are tipped toward lessening concussions from above the neck hits.

In my opinion, the NFL wants to avoid being sued by current/former players who may have suffered concussions (long-term costs) by risking the players’ immediate safety through leg tackling (short-term costs).

Both sides (players and the NFL) have their valid arguments:

  • The players want to perform at high levels in the majority of their careers, due to the uncertain job security of the NFL serving as a revolving door of talent.
  • Many players facing the final years on their contract desire job and salary security, which drives them to play through various injuries.
  • On the other side of the coin, the league primarily wants to continue to make money which is totally understandable (the NFL is a business corporation).
  • Decreasing the chance of being sued by current/former players saves the NFL money in the long run.

Now, when the players are unsure of what is and isn’t legal, there could be a problem. And even when the men officiating the game are confused on what to call, there is definitely an issue.

The integrity of the game is at risk when these confusing rules come into play. Many guys have been fined over the smallest touch to a defenseless player (or quarterback). I’m not saying every quarterback is a defenseless player, but some (elite) QB’s receive this preferential treatment.
Ok, maybe it was more than an elbow swipe.

Sometimes Robert Griffin or Eli Manning would get plastered in the pocket without a flag thrown. There were other times when Tom Brady or Peyton Manning would receive an additional 15-yards for getting swiped on the elbow.

If the rules continue to be confusing and almost impossible to consistently interpret, we may see one of the most-watched sports come up short to living up to its already-established potential.

What do you think?

How can referees become better interpreters of the rules? Is the NFL front office risking safety in exchange for lawsuit avoidance? Do players actually have a voice on this issue?

The human element of officiating seems to work in baseball, but not when awarding a team an additional 15-yards for something that looked illegal.

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