The NFL announced today that league owners passed four player safety rules that will go into effect next season during meetings in California this week
The first is the elimination of blindside, helmet-to-helmet blocks.
According to the report, new rules state that the initial force of a blindside block can't be delivered by a helmet, forearm or shoulder to an opponent's head or neck. An illegal blindside block will bring a 15-yard penalty. Check out the block by Pittsburgh's Hines Ward on Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers and you'll understand what the owners are getting at here.
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League owners also passed a rule that prohibits initial contact to the head of a defenseless receiver, that also will draw a 15-yard penalty. The hit to Anquan Boldin was a catalyst for this move.
On kickoffs, no blocking wedge of more than two players will be allowed.
And lastly, the kicking team can't have more than five players bunched together pursuing an onside kick. ESPN's John Clayton has a full report here.
Are these rule changes necessary? Perhaps. I'm assuming the owners have looked at statistics that point to more injuries occurring during these type of scenarios, and that's why they are installing these new rules.
I think the elimination of any helmet-to-helmet contact on blocking and tackling plays is appropriate.
However, I do believe the more rules you put in place, the more players are thinking on the field instead of playing with instinct, and that to me is when you're going to have more injuries.
I don't think the Hines Ward hit was dirty. That's what happens as a football player if you don't have you're head on a swivel and are not aware of your surroundings. And most guys grow up being taught to know where guys are around you. Ward wasn't trying to hit Rivers in the head. Neither was New York Jets safety Eric Green when he hit Bolden.
I think the changes on kickoff and kick returns also take away from the excitement of the game. Not being able to shift to one side of the field to overload on one side will make it harder to recover onside kicks during close games.
The five-man wedge has been used for decades because it makes it easier to break longer runs on kick returns, but again the owners made the move because of the injury concerns.