Whether they’re doing it to improve their image or to protect the players, the NFL has been rolling out new player safety rules as of late. With more and more players from past generations suffering from traumatic brain injuries and taking it out on the league through lawsuits, it’s understandable why the NFL is trying to be proactive. The problem with this, however, is they are hurting the game of football and seeing a massive increase in other bodily injuries.
ACL tears are happening at an all-time high as more players were placed on injured reserve through eight weeks this season due to an ACL tear than there were in the entire 2011,or 2012 seasons. This statistic can be summed up by Washington Redskins defender Brandon Meriweather, who said this to ESPN 980’s Chris Russell earlier this season: “To be honest you just got to go low now, you gotta end people’s careers.” Meriweather of course was getting the point across that when you go high you get penalized, so it’s time to go low and hurt players instead.
While many, including myself, thought Meriweather was going a tad overboard with these statements, it’s now becoming harder to argue with the numbers. The numbers indicate players are going lower when tackling, and as a result they are tearing more ligaments and missing extended periods of time as opposed to missing a game or two due to a concussion sustained off a high hit.
Concussions are a big deal of course, and the new documentary “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” points out the NFL long ignored the research they saw on concussions, and now they are simply trying to overcompensate. However, what the league must take into consideration with these concussions leading to brain injuries is that 20 years ago players weren’t held out from practice or games because of concussions like they are now.
Whether or not players are held out from contact because of a concussion, brain damage will still occur at some level, but that has simply become an added cost of playing the game. Many former NFL greats have said they don’t regret their time in the NFL and would do it again even if it means a harder life down the road.
The real issue with these new rules, however, is in the watering down of one of the most popular sports in this country. The Donte Whitner >hit Monday night on Steven Jackson was just another example of a player making a great play on the ball and being penalized for doing so. While Whitner didn’t go low for the legs, he instead used his shoulder pads to light up Jackson and force an incomplete pass on one of the best hits of the year.
Whitner, however, was hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty, and though the league may overturn the hit the damage was done when Jackson ran into the end zone for an easy touchdown the very next play.
The NFL has conditioned its officials to call a penalty on any gruesome looking hit, whether legal or not, and this simply cannot continue. With teams and their doctors taking a more proactive approach to concussions these days, it’s time the league scraps the new targeting penalties they recently implemented and simply lets football players play football.