The NFL has made every attempt in recent years to protect the longevity of their players lives during and after their football careers. These rules include changes that are geared to protect players from receiving hits and blows to the head.
However, these changes are beginning to go overboard in the eyes of NFL players (as well as fans), and as viewers of the sport continue to decline, the NFL will have to find a balance between player safety and player aggression in the most popular contact sport in the US.
Irony can be amusing, as just over a decade ago the NFL faced numerous lawsuits and backlash over their mismanagement of player safety, failing to acknowledge that diseases like CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is a deteriorative brain disease caused by repeat concussions) ran rampant throughout their teams.
Now, after failing to protect their players before, the NFL has overdone it with applying rules to player safety, so much so that the game of football is no longer what it used to be.
A recent rule change was discussed yesterday between members of the Philadelphia Eagles organization and referees of the league. The new rule states that a player will be penalized 15 yards and potentially fined or ejected for lowering his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. The idea behind the rule is to prevent tackling players from having their neck injured and prevent ball carriers from getting hits from the crown of a helmet.
The idea behind the rule has good intentions, but the actual execution of the rule will be difficult to plan out. The game of football is very fast, faster than those who watch it — and apparently faster than those who make the rules anticipate.
Eagles safety Malcom Jenkins put it best, telling ESPN,”I’m going to make that play 10 times out of 10. If it’s a flag, it’s a flag,”
That is just the issue, players at the professional level have already been developing their skills for over a decade, and to ask them to change their ways is difficult. Muscle memory happens when you train your muscles and reflexes to react in a certain way over time, and now the NFL expects to fine players and eject them from games for doing what their muscles naturally do.
Players are now scratching their heads trying to figure out how to play the sport they have played for over a decade.
There is now doubt that the NFL is becoming softer in nature and players are not taking too kindly to that. As new challengers like the XFL (a separate football league where the rules are relaxed) attract the more aggressive players of the NFL, maybe they will be able to attract fans as well.
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