The owners passed a new targeting rule at the league meetings in order to protect the players from injuries and it might backfire.
As the NFL continues to try and find ways to make the game safer for players and prevent injuries, it could use some work on the new targeting rule. With injuries happening every year that make some players question getting back on the field and studies about the after-effects of concussions, there’s no doubt that there are ways to try and prevent some of those head injuries. The most recent is making it illegal for a defender to lead with their helmet.
It would seem that the league hadn’t fully thought this new rule through, however. There has yet to be informed on how the league and officials will enforce the new rule. Will there be a penalty, fine, ejection, or some sort of mixture? Then you add in the quickness of the game and how fast everything happens on the field and have to decide on what is justifiable or not for the said penalty.
Football was not meant to be reviewed every single play for possible penalties. We can all agree that we want the game to be safer for the players and prevent these head injuries. If you saw what happened to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier last year, you probably instantly started thinking about the possibilities of these hits in the NFL. That’s all you needed to see to realize how brutal the sport can be on the body. How easy it is to get hurt.
The new rule could cause instant replays and have to freeze frame a play almost every tackle. Imagine how long games will be if the officials have to constantly be going back over to see if the helmet hit the runner first. Imagine the number of flags this new rule will draw and consistently pause the game due to penalties. Games are going to be moving to around four hours long instead of three.
Then you have the amount of gray area within the rule. We have all been sitting there on Sunday watching a football game and be yelling at our television for a helmet to helmet contact call to be made. Then you hear the announcers go into a description of why it wasn’t a flag because of what part of the helmet or it was unintentional. Then you’ll be watching a different game and the exact same hit will be made and will draw the flag. What will the gray area be and how consistent will the referee’s be able to call this penalty?
Now we have the biggest issue for the Bengals when it comes to the new rule. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is already serving a four-game suspension to start off the 2018 season and his other suspensions have been for hits on the field. Bringing in this new rule with even more possible gray area makes it very possible that we see Burfict possibly having another suspension by the time the season is over.
It will be interesting to see what the league decides to do in the sense of enforcing this new rule. The biggest position that it will effect will probably be safeties. Can defenders completely change how they have always gone in for a big hit or will this new rule just turn into yellow flags on almost every play? There might need to be some alterations depending on how 2018 plays out.