On one hand, you have to give the NFL a little bit of credit for the way they have put a spotlight on player safety over the last few seasons. They recognized that concussions have become a major problem, and the league took steps to address it. No longer can a defender launch his head at an opponent while making a tackle. There is also the defenseless receiver rule — pretty much any contact with the head or up high now results in a penalty flag being thrown, so much so that we have all seen calls on phantom high touches.
On the other hand, you can’t say that the NFL wasn’t warned. The league doesn’t want the players hitting up high, so they have now learned to hit low. Many players have been vocal about that, commenting on the potential for lower body injuries to be increased if they can no longer tackle high. If the league didn’t take that threat seriously before the injury to Rob Gronkowski on Sunday, you can bet they are going to be thinking about it now.
By all angles and accounts I’ve seen and read to this point, when T.J. Ward hit Gronkowski in the right knee, it was a “clean” hit. There were no penalty flags thrown and no offense taken by members of the New England Patriots. There can’t be, Ward hit the way that you are supposed to hit in the ”new NFL” of today.
The NFL is all about the offense. With the popularity of things like Peyton Manning breaking records and fantasy football, the NFL is seeing succe0ss unlike any time in their history. People love offense, and the league recognizes that and wants to provide viewers with as much scoring as possible. With reports surfacing that Gronkowski has a torn ACL and will be done for the season, you can bet that the league office will be looking into how to avoid this situation in the future. While no rules were broken, the league simply cannot afford to have one of the most talented, popular and polarizing figures go down to this type of injury again.
I give full marks to the league office for the intent to make the game safer. However, they had to consider that, if the players aren’t allowed to tackle high, that they would tackle low. The players warned the league, but most of those warnings were dismissed. While the hit that may have ended Gronkowski’s season and delivered a huge blow to the Super Bowl aspirations of the Patriots was delivered by Ward, only the NFL is to blame.
As always, I welcome your comments. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen. Just back it up with some facts and solid evidence. Thanks for reading and good luck this season.
Read more from Dustin here.