The NFL's crusade to ensure the safety of its players could take another significant step forward in the near future. According to the Associated Press via ESPN.com, the league will monitor hits to the knees on defenseless players this season in an effort to gauge if rule changes are necessary.
The rules already prohibit hits to the head and neck of defenseless players, so while outlawing hits to the knees of defenseless players would certainly add another layer of safety to the sport, it would severely limit defensive players as well.
It seems as though the main incident that has led to the NFL's interest in this subject is the low hit that Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger made on Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller during an Aug. 17 preseason game.
According to the Associated Press, that hit left Keller with three torn knee ligaments as well as a dislocated kneecap. He'll miss the entire 2013 season, and it is entirely possible that he'll never again be the same player that he once was.
Due to the elimination of hits to the head and neck area—and the penalties and punishments for them when they do occur—defensive players like Swearinger are aiming lower when tackling opponents. There is some concern that hits to the knees and below will spike, according to NFL chief of football operations Ray Anderson:
This issue has not directly come up. But when we have had discussions when making the head and neck area completely off-limits to players, there was some concern players might lower their targets and might include knees and below. We will look at that going forward.
Although there are reportedly no immediate plans to create rules against low hits on defenseless players, something could potentially be in the works if they plague the league throughout the regular season.
There already seems to be a great divide among fans; some favor safety while others believe that being too safe hurts the sanctity of the game. With low hits suddenly entering the equation, that chasm could become even bigger.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter