There is nothing more reverent than the solitary sound of thousands of breaths combined as one, the roar of silence filling our ears. You can hear the football thumping to the ground from hundreds of feet above the field, rolling to a stop unattended during one of the rare moments that the focus is not on the game.
Tens multitudes of fans stare in anticipatory horror as a member of their favorite team or their opposer lies motionless on the ground.
Fortunately, the NFL is making efforts to eliminate the frequency of this type of life-changing event this upcoming year.
In an effort to protect players, new officials rules and one adjustment for the 2009 season are underway, as the NFL released information this evening prior to the season opening to recap with fans the changes that will be on field.
Soon to retire NFL officiating director Mike Pereira explained the modifications, undoubtedly designed to help prevent serious injuries such as the one that befell New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the 2008 season opener.
One adjustment was made to assist in the protection of a passing quarterback, with new prohibition against defenders lunging into the quarterback post tackle if the play remains ongoing.
The remaining rules changes are as follows, as worded exactly by release of the NFL:
· The initial force of a blindside block can't be delivered by a helmet, forearm or shoulder to an opponent's head or neck. An illegal blindside block will bring a 15-yard penalty.
· Initial contact to the head of a defenseless receiver also will draw a 15-yard penalty. "Our clear movement is to getting out of the striking in the head area," Pereira said. "We're reading about injuries that say spinal and vertebrae. We've got to try something."
· On kickoffs, no blocking wedge of more than two players will be allowed. A 15-yard penalty will go to a violating team.
· Also on kickoffs, the kicking team can't have more than five players bunched together pursuing an onside kick. Breaking this rule would draw a 5-yard penalty.
While horse-collar tackles are going to be a focus of the officiant the 2009 season, consistency across the board is also being stepped up. NFL committee members acknowledge that inconsistency in rule calling and flags remain a problem for teams.
In addition to this, call error is being scrutinized, as examples such as the week 11 Pittsburg victory over the San Diego Chargers shamed fan confidence after a late game touchdown was wrongly negated. This may also change in the upcoming days as a vote is expected to be held over the issue of expanding the prospect of video replay reviews.
Safety for our athletes is something that all fans have in mind, with tears welling into the eyes of many each and every time that a respectable athlete, a man of strength and reverence, is lain fallen on the turf.
Preferably, there will be less standing ovations incited from an encouraging thumbs up as such a man is driven off of the field.
We want to see them walking.
Keeping this primary goal in mind, we cannot however neglect the reality that penalty calls are at an all time high, with games frequently and annoying being stopped with great plays being revoked for the foolish actions of someone hasty.
Hopefully teams will continue to improve upon policing themselves and prevent further league fines and suspensions for rough conduct such as last year’s suspensions to Mew York Jets safety Eric Smith against Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin and cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Elbert Mack for a nasty tackle against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Regardless, progression brings change, and changes must be embraced if they are here to stay. I would say that these most certainly fall into that category.