The National Football League has made player safety one of its top priorities and the move to a safer game reportedly yielded the suggestion that the league consider changing the playing field to a CFL-style design.
As recently as a year ago, the competition committee kicked around the idea of a bigger field, CFL style. And this wasn’t the first time the committee has broached the subject. Perhaps the committee will broach the subject again when it meets in Indianapolis in advance of the combine.
The Canadian field is 195 feet wide, compared to the 160-foot wide NFL field. The CFL field also is 30 yards longer, but the widening of the field is what really could impact safety regarding head injuries.
While the NFL would likely keep the current length of the field (100 yards) the same—downfield passing action wouldn’t change much with the difference in length—the real safety innovation would come with the widening of the field.
Teams would have more open space in which to work if the field were wider, thus making defensive players less able to stack the box. Having more area to cover would lead to less immediate contact as a result.
On a current NFL field, the width of the playing surface limits how much ground a defender must cover, but a wider field would force defenders to spread out to cover every possible route; consequently, less contact will inevitably lead to fewer injuries.
This would be a huge change for the league and it would likely take teams a few seasons to get accustomed to it, but it would be a smart move for the future of the game.
Head injuries already have damaged the game's reputation (h/t Sports Illustrated), and despite the success of the sport, the long-term outlook of football isn’t as bright as it once was.
Concussions and head injuries are a serious factor for the game moving forward, and any possible answer to the issue must be considered. If the league can prove that a wider field can decrease injuries, it would be irresponsible for the NFL to not make the changes.
The NFL's top officials should be doing anything and everything to make the sport safer, no matter what detractors say.