NFL New Contact Rules: Why The Defense Shouldn't Be The Only Ones Accountable
It has been well over a year since my last article on Bleacher Report, and over a year-and-a-half since the one before that. And to be honest, I just became too busy. But recently there is something frustrating me, so much that this is the only place that I figured I could vent without causing a confrontation or scene.
As most everyone not currently living under a rock already knows, the NFL has recently issued new rules concerning punishment for helmet-to-helmet contact hits. And apparently the change is coming only after this past weekend's incidents of players receiving concussions.
Not only do these rules increase ejections and fines for devastating hits on the field, but could result in suspensions for defensive players whom deliberate launch their helmet into another player.
Helmet-to-helmet hits have been on the rise, occurring with more and more frequency. But apparently, because of four hits this past weekend, the NFL has decided now is the best time to implement new guidelines for punishment.
The thing that has bothered me the most is that the non-intentional H2H contact is being fined more than the intentional ones.
Example: James Harrison made H2H contact with Josh Cribbs unintentionally, causing him to leave the game. Later on, he hit Mohammad Massaquoi, breaking up a pass, leading with his shoulder as is shown in the replay, and giving Massaquoi a concussion as well. He was fined $75,000 for the hits.
Who is most to blame for the increase in fines and punishments for "illegal" hits?
Brandon Meriweather intentionally launched his helmet into Todd Heap's while breaking up a pass, injuring him on the play, and was only fined $50,000.
This bothers me because it is fairly obvious which hit was more malicious and intended to cause injury. Meriweather should have been fined much more heavily, and probably should have been suspended as well.
Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I must present this question to the reader:
Is it solely the defensive players' fault that these new restrictions are being put in place?
How often do you see the ball carrier lower his head when heading into a tackle? All the time. And if a defensive player has already committed to the tackle, there is not a player in the league who could change his positioning enough to not hit the ball carrier H2H.
Take Brandon Jacobs for example. At 6'4", 264 pounds, he is as big, if not bigger than most linebackers in the league today. He lowers his head while running and he could give a LB a concussion instead of the other way around. But would a fine or suspension be put on him? Probably not.
Why not you ask? It's simple, the NFL makes its money off of excitement and offensive games. In their eyes, a game that ends in a score of 6-3 or 10-7 is not a game that will draw in a lot of viewers. Notice how the Saints, Pats and Colts are televised almost every week? They put up lots of points. Which is more exciting for NFL fans than watching the Steelers win 15-9 in OT with the game's only TD.
I saw an interview earlier this week with Andre Johnson concerning the H2H contact rules. He said that the new stricter, punishments will cause defensive players to hesitate before hits, which lead to more arm tackling, more broken tackles, and more exciting plays during the course of the game.
Exactly what the NFL wants to see.
As the stories progress and voices are more and more heard, it is increasingly becoming what James Harrison says it has. He feels that the NFL is restricting his ability to play football the way he has been taught since pee-wee league.
One last thing that is confusing me concerns the wording of the new rules. It talks about illegal hits on defenseless players. This cannot talk about WRs and RBs exclusively. What about a block by a fullback on a D-linemen, LB or corner who is either away from the play or looking at the quarterback? A blind-side hit could cause the defensive player to receive a concussion or other head or neck injury.
Overall, the new rules are not doing any good for the game of football and are only causing somewhat unfair treatment of the defense. Each side of the ball should share the same set of rules and restrictions concerning H2H contact or hits to the head or neck, but I highly doubt that is going to happen.
The new rules are not really going to affect the offensive teams in the league, but the more defensive minded teams are going to be greatly affected by them, whether it be causing hesitation before tackles or actual suspensions and ejections from games.
You take a James Harrison or Ray Lewis away from a team for a game or two and their whole season could be affected simply by one hit.
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