THE NFL TWEAKS SOME RULES FOR 2019
The NFL had to do something. In addition to the obviously needed rule change to allow video replay review on pass interference calls, such as the one that kept the New Orleans Saints out of the Super Bowl last year, there were a few other significant changes made in the NFL Rule Book for 2019.
‘Blindside Blocks’ have always been frowned upon. It’s a sneaky practice, hitting someone when they are not looking. There is obviously no way to count the number of sports related injuries over the years that have occurred because of a blindside blocking. The spine, the lower back and of course the head and neck area are all at considerable risk for the victim of a blindside block who has no chance to prepare his body for a pending collision.
So now the league is making another set of rules and penalties to try and bring blind side blocks to an end, or at least make them a rarity. To that end the NFL has announced a 15 yard penalty for any player who “initiates a block in which he is moving toward or parallel to his own end line and makes forcible contact to his opponent with his helmet, forearm or shoulder”. If ever there was a rule that sounded as if it came out of a committee, this one qualifies.
Previously the NFL considered blindside blocks to be OK unless the head or neck area was contacted during the block. It surely took them long enough to make this obvious change to the rulebook for the protection of the players.
Everybody likes kickoffs and punts. Here is a chance for some fast paced exciting action after too many lack luster off tackle plays. Long distances are covered and what was the defense suddenly becomes the offense taking their turn at moving the ball down the field quickly.
However, when statistics on in game injuries started to be recorded and studied, it was noticed that a rather alarming percentage of injuries during a game came during punt returns and kickoffs. That same ‘sudden change’ that makes the game so exciting for the fans is was shown to be the major contributing cause of these injuries. In fact, about 10% of all injuries suffered during an NFL game occur during punts and kickoffs.
In 2018 the league installed rules eliminating the two-man wedge and putting restrictions on running starts for the coverage team, thus cutting down on some of the high speed collisions and resulting in some 38% reduction in concussions on kickoffs when compared to the last 3 seasons. That’s a significant number of players’ heads not being violently, and repeatedly, contacted.
Last year the NFL expanded the powers of the officials overseeing the games to include the power to eject from the game any player who committed a ‘non-football aggressive act’ such as fighting, it only happened once last year, but the rule was in place.
This year Al Riveron, who is Senior Vice President of Officiating of the NFL, and his associates will also have the power to eject a player for football related offences as well, such as targeting, if they feel ejection is warranted.
A much need revision of the existing overtime rules was brought up and then tabled for further discussion at a later date. Let’s hope they get this done before the next NFL season kicks off so that each team will get at least one possession of the ball during the overtime period. Wouldn’t that be nice?