NFL Safety Issue: Three Simple Ways to Improve Player Safety

Matt SheehanAnalyst IApril 2, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 05: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys lays on thew field injured against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Cowboys defeated the Colts 38-35 in overtime (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

Taking a break from protecting their wallets, the NFL owners took part in protecting players by voting for kickoff rules that won’t only enhance player safety, but also change the game for the meanwhile. The new rules that will come into play next season (whatever year that may be) will be moving the tee to the 35 yard line and only giving the kickoff team five yards of room behind the line of scrimmage.

Interesting that in order to save players from a higher medical bill they would only stop at where to place the pigskin on kickoffs, isn’t it? With what seems to be an endless amount of time before the next season goes underway, maybe the NFL can pass these three rules that would do players a favor.

1. Start mandating that all players wear mouth guards. According to there were 154 concussions through Week 8, a 34 percent jump from two seasons ago, so how could this not make sense? Ever since the days of pop warner the athletes are told to wear them to protect their noodle, and some players may not even be on a field today due to what could happen without that molded rubber on their teeth. Whether it’s because players don’t think it looks flashy or it would hide their gold teeth, someone needs to stick it in their mouths for the sake of their heads, literally.

2. Eliminate the “wedge formation” on kickoffs. It’s beyond me as to how this was not banned in this week’s rule voting, and for those unfamiliar to this kickoff return strategy, let me break it down for you: Imagine starting two Escalades about 100 feet away from four Range Rovers. When I say go, the four Range Rovers will be trying to pulverize the two Escalades that are side-by-side, and also charging forward, in order to annihilate the Corvette behind them. If you can imagine that collision, it’s not that far off than what happens on nearly every kickoff in the NFL. Sound safe? Didn’t think so.

3. Put leg protection on every player. Studies have shown that ankle and knee injuries have been more prominent on turf fields, which is alarming since 10 teams call a turf field home. Whether it be slamming their knee into the ground after a run up the middle or having a linebacker hammer a wideout’s legs after a slant route, my guess is that if the league mandated that all players wear leg and knee pads just like the good ol’ days of college, knee injuries wouldn’t be as conspicuous as they are today. Sure it looks sleek without the pads and may make the players a blink faster, but if safety is the focus, throwing some pads in those pants would benefit player durability.

While there is no telling the next time we'll see our favorite teams on the gridiron, I wish you all a great and quick offseason.