How ‘Bout This?



One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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50 Responses

  1. Avatar Mo says:

    Why is it that people only demand we change the rules on what hits are legal after Patriots players are injured? When Carson Palmer gets his knee blown out by a hit on the knees, it’s unfortunate. When Tom Brady gets hurt on the exact same play, it’s proof that those types of hits are dangerous to the health and well-being of players and the rule needs to be changed.

    Things would be a lot easier if the NFL just had a blanket, no tackling anyone on the Patriots rule.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I deliberately avoided the “Patriots get special treatment because Goodell is in bed with Kraft” line of thinking because I didn’t want to distract from the broader point but, yea, the Patriots get special treatment because Goodell is in bed with Kraft.

      Given their past and the fact that they have sucked in 1st halves and dominated in 2nd halves recently, I can’t believe the league completely ignored the Texans defender who asserted something seemed fishy in their contest.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    Tinkering with rules is for people who just can’t completely face the gruesome truth about football. Every week at least one, if not multiple, players will suffer season ending injuries where the recovery could easily take a year or more. That is the sport as it is now. I’m not even talking concussions, which are bad enough. Did anybody see multiple replays of the obvious concussion Steelers RB Leaveon Bell got against the Raven’s a week and half ago. The jerk weed announcers at one point even said “he had his bell rung.” Idiot, he clearly had a concussion, you could see he was out cold. But i digress. Football is the now the game where almost every player will have many minor injuries and very likely one big injury. The only reason this has caught more attention is because of the big name players who are out for seasons. If people want to change that, which they don’t, then they need major changes to the game.Report

  3. Avatar Gerry says:

    It’s interesting. Rugby players are getting bigger and bigger too (witness the entire all-black side who could probably play on any NFL team) and yet the injuries are not the same. This is especially interesting when you consider that the average NFL player will only have a few minutes total action in a game while a rugby player is getting battered for a full 80 minutes. I have often wondered about that and thought it was because tacklers tend to come from a more lateral position in rugby but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore with modern defenses. In football, there’s no chance of the player “off-loading” to someone else. As a result, the defensive player is trying to just take the player with the ball down while the offensive player is trying to reach for that one extra yard. In rugby there is no change of possession or stoppage when a player hits the ground and so there is less incentive to go that extra yard where you can’t protect yourself. The player also slows down somewhat when he is about to be tackled so that he can protect the ball when he goes to ground or even pass just before the tackle.

    That last play by Pittsburgh last week is being called miraculous or something but have a look at the 6-nations competition in the Spring and you’ll see it all the time. It’s fascinating because both games came from the same root and yet they have evolved so differently. I don’t believe that there is any way to prevent severe injuries in football happening on a regular basis because of the way the game is structured. Getting rid of the forward pass would probably do it but then it wouldn’t be football any more, it would be rugby again.Report

    • Avatar Boegiboe says:

      It might be sufficient to just outlaw the body armor and let American football evolve from there. Both rugby and Aussie-rules football are much more fun to watch than American football.Report

  4. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Require that the tackler make an honest effort to “wrap up” the ball carrier — no more pulling your arms in, tucking your head, and using your shoulder/back to simply knock the ball-carrier down. In compensation, take away the stiff arm by the ball carrier.Report

    • Avatar Gerry says:

      Exactly – this is the way tackling is taught in rugby – prevent the player from distributing the ball rapidly by wrapping him up. Far less injuries as a result. There is, however, no incentive to do this in football.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        What are the rules in rugby regarding defenders contacting off-ball offensive players? Because in the NFL, it is basically illegal. This means receivers can be at full speed, coming at a stationary defender. The laws of physics are against the defender stopping him cold. So he has to use leverage… going high or low. Going high is illegal so, low it is.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      The problem with this is the frequent size differential between players. A RB or TE might be 250 running fast with a 200 pound CB trying to tackle him. It really isn’t possible to wrap up easily or at all unless you are at just the right angle and even then could be difficult. The offensive player is bigger with serious momentum which makes trying to knock them down more likely to work then wrapping up.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      Gerry’s comment above about rugby got me curious enough to visit YouTube. If you look at compendiums of “biggest hits” from rugby and from American football, the difference is immediately apparent. The tacklers in the AF clips almost never make an effort to wrap up the ball carrier. The rugby tacklers almost always make that effort. I suspect there’s a difference in the rules.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Yeah, you don’t get on the ESPN highlight reel for good tackling form. You get there for a big hit that lays out the other guy.Report

      • Avatar Gerry says:

        Because there’s no automatic end to the play when the player hits the ground, the only way to get it off him is to either turn him so that he falls facing away from his own players or else prevent him from getting the ball back on his own side. The player has to let go of the ball when he hits the ground or else it is a penalty so if you can get him wrapped up and facing the wrong way, it is going to be a turnover. Also, wrapping up prevents a quick offload (a la Pittsburgh on Sunday). Totally different tackling technique, much lower chance of severe injury.Report

  5. Avatar Notme says:

    Meh, he is a big boy that gets paid well to play and take the risk of injury.Report

  6. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I again go back to what I say each time we have these conversations: Reduce the amount of protective gear, you’ll reduce the amount of serious injuries. People just use their body differently than they otherwise would when they believe they are in a protective shielding.

    Wants someone to stop hurling their head against someone’s knee at full force? Put them in a 1940s style leather helmet.Report

  7. Avatar Dman says:

    Sheesh, I think the NFL might as well go all the way and change their name to the NFFL. National Flag Football League. This is a very rough sport. Deal with it.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      What an insightful and sophisticated argument. I’m sure it will be considered with just as much thought as you put into it.Report

      • Avatar notme says:

        the truth hurtsReport

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


        It’s not only the truth that football is what it is, it is also the truth that football was what it was, and will become what it will become. Thus kind of truth doesn’t hurt, other than the pain of boredom.Report

      • Avatar Pyre says:

        The truth does hurt when you think about the implications. Take pro wrestling as an example.

        The 90s were very good for pro wrestling. The matches were crazy to watch and the promos were hilarious. Then, little by little, things started to get safer. The promos started getting toned down in order to offend nobody. (Seriously, a lot of the stuff that The Rock did on the mike just can’t be done anymore.) Every time somebody got injured, a new rule would be put in to avoid that situation again. This has resulted in a steady year-by-year drop. RAW used to be in the 5s and 6s. Now, it’s in the 2s and 3s.

        Given that the NFL has (I believe) higher costs than the WWE, how many more rule changes can the NFL take when the statement “It will become what it will become” can be answered with “tanking and on the road to extinction”?Report

  8. Avatar Stillwater says:

    I was trying to explain an NFL rule to my wife once upon a time (two days ago) and realized, during the explanation, that the rule was entirely ad-hoc, and designed specifically to increase offense. Both of those things are true of oh so many rules. It’s the most complicated, counter intuitive mess of rules ever devised by man. (OK, maybe the US tax code…)

    The whole game increasingly strikes me as overengineered, so overtly and intentionally constructed it sometimes barely seems like a game anymore. Unlike soccer, for example. Or golf.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I thought about this, too.

      Take intentional grounding (one of the few rules which aids the defense)… the rationale for it is pretty manipulative of the action on the field. Either it’s cool for the QB to throw the ball forward so long as he is not fully forward of the line of scrimmage or it’s not. Putting weird parameters (which are then excepted in the case of a kill-clock spike) on it are indeed contrived.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Or “in the grasp”. Or if you’re in the pocket and throw the ball past the line of scrimmage it’s not intentional grounding. Or if you’re out of the pocket you can throw it anywhere you like and it’s not intentional grounding. It just makes no sense.

        Defenders can jam receivers within five yards from the line of scrimmage – after that, it’s holding/PI. But uncacthability negates holding/PI downfield. Crazy.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I’ve actually learned to like soccer over the years because of the simplicity of the rules as well as the desire of fans to preserve those basic rules. There’s no push within soccer to “get more scoring!” Fuck that. I’ve always loved the old black-and-blue division defensive battles in US football myself and see rules to increase scoring as a corruption of the game.

        There, I said it.

        (Same with the NBA, for that matter.)Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        There actually was some push in the 90s and early 00s to eliminate or significantly modify the off sides rule in soccer, but fortunately it failed. That rule creates some of the most interesting strategic battles of the game. And honestly, who cares if it ends up 0-0? I’ve seen some excellent soccer end in nil-nil ties.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        “. There’s no push within soccer to “get more scoring!” Fuck that. I’ve always loved the old black-and-blue division defensive battles in US football myself and see rules to increase scoring as a corruption of the game.

        There, I said it.”

        You may love that. But, the casual girlfriend or friend of a friend who only plays Madden is interested in scoring. It’s worked. The business of the NFL is more popular than ever.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        My issue with soccer is it’s unwillingness to modernize its umpiring. First off, they need to implement goal line technology. One goal often is the difference in games and it is imperative to get every and any goal call correct. Second, they need to add a second or even third referee to the pitch. Right now, you have one ref calling action on a field larger than a football field with 22 players on it. The ball and the players move faster than him and, as a result, he is often trailing plays. This is why flopping has proliferated. He has to call the response, not the action itself. The NBA has three refs for a much smaller playing space. The NFL has seven I believe. Put more refs out there to call fouls and you’ll see flopping decrease and the quality of play increase. Otherwise, soccer works pretty well in its simplicity.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        Weren’t the intentional grounding rules implemented specifically for Fran Tarkenton?
        I think they started to change them and recognize exceptions once Tarkenton retired, and they realized that the rule might apply to other players as well.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Defenders can jam receivers within five yards from the line of scrimmage – after that, it’s holding/PI.

        And then you listen to the analysts and former players describe how the rule actually gets enforced… Out to seven yards is almost always okay, nine yards is definitely too far, and eight yards is a gray area depending on how blatant it looks.Report

  9. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Fortunately, the area between thigh and chest contains a perfect handle for the tackler to grab on to. That’s comletely legal, right? No penalty, no fine, not even a warning or clarification.Report

  10. Avatar Gerry says:

    @Chris There are two reasons why I can’t watch soccer anymore even though I grew up watching it and supporting Man U:

    1. Ronaldo – He’s one of the best players in the world and yet he constantly sees the need to throw himself on the ground in paroxysms of phantom pain. Unfortunately, this has been learned by a new generation of soccer players. There was always this kind of cheating but it seems worse in recent years.
    2. I don’t mind low scoring games but it is frustrating when a clearly better side does not win because the other team packs the box with defenders. Greece won a European Championship a few years ago doing that and nipping up the pitch to score a jammy goal. It was excruciating to watch and unfortunately, outside the top few teams, a lot of soccer is like that.

    For an entertaining, skillful, high-scoring, fast game with passionate supporters, you can’t beat hurling – this year’s final between Cork and Clare was magnificent (last 2 minutes of the game here That is somewhat off-topic though.Report

  11. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    If your honest preference is to outlaw vertical routes down the middle (Gronkowski was outside the hatch) to outlawing the knee-shots that had been proscribed by convention, that’s fair enough (though I don;t see how that would control knee-shots – you’d have to explain how it would address the issue at hand). Either thing changes the game (I don’t buy into any fairness critique – the rules of the game are what they are for both sides of the contest at any given moment), and everyone’s entitled to their preference about which changes would be preferable. But if that’s not actually a preference that you have, then you’re basically just trolling in the face of real problem that has to be dealt with.

    Traditionally, it was an unwritten rule that players wouldn’t take out knees because that endangers careers more than going high. Take out my head, but leave me my knees. That worked for a while, but it came to a point where the League could no longer countenance the head shots, so it outlawed them. It does stand to reason that the norm against going low would deteriorate in the face of that change, but there’s no reason the League needs to accept that. It was able to rely on self-policing to control knee-shots previously, but if that’s no longer the case, then it absolutely should act to restore one of the few restraints that ever helped control the violence of this brutal game. “Fairness” between offense and defense be damned; no such consideration should even exist. The game is what those who make its rules say it is. Head tackling and knee tackling were always a corruption of the way a tackling sport ought to be played in any case. Tackle at the waist. If that makes it easier to score, well, then that’s just the nature of the game you’re playing.

    Despite the basic attitude that I lay out above, though, I am open to rules changes meant to preserve a previous balance between offense and defense that could go along with changes needed to protect player safety. For my part, I do think that outlawing certain routes would create chaos in the game and make it far less fun to watch. If you’re really so concerned about restoring some kind of balance between defense and offense, my proposal would be to let the League do what it thinks it has to do to protect safety, but then just to get rid of pass interference altogether. The game doesn’t seem to have any sense of what it wants PI to consist of anymore, anyway. There’s in fact lots of pass interference that goes on on every pass play where the defender keeps up with the receiver. There’s just some arbitrary that no one can even name that separates legal interference from illegal. I say let defenders do whatever they want (within the parameters of safety restrictions) to prevent receivers from catching the ball (and vice versa for badly directed balls), and let the League do what it has to to protect safety. If you’re really concerned about a game that makes it too easy for the offense to score, you’ll be perfectly fine with this suggestion. The League would have to go quite far indeed with safety protections in order to tilt the game back toward the offense past this change. If the concern is really offense/defense balance, this (if we’re going to have this discussion by means of implausible rules changes) should satisfy those professing that concern. That concern. It’s only if the concern is actually protecting certain ways of playing defense, some of which the players voluntarily proscribed until very recently, others the League reasonably deemed necessary to outlaw by rule, (IOW, with retaining the specific kinds of violence that have characterised the game merely for the sake of tradition or because of sympathy for well-paid athletes having to adjust to changes in the rules of their game) that this proposal shouldn’t satisfy people’s concern.

    And if it doesn’t, then these concerns should simply be dismissed. Both tradition and maintaining offense/defense balance are legitimate concerns of those who run the game. But both should be subordinate to basic, bare minimum safety regulations. The game should maintain its character as much as possible consistent with judgements about pressing safety concerns. But where concerns about tradition or preferences about how the game be played conflict with unavoidable safety concerns, it’s important that all stakeholders be made to understand that their preferences and concerns with tradition simply will fall to the side in favor of said safety concerns in an absolute way if that is necessary. The games management should make clear that they will happily deform the game to the point of nonrecognition if, due to inflexibility by players and stakeholders, necessary safety restrictions require it. Increasingly, I’m of the mind that the League should go ahead and restrict the tackling zone to thighs-to-chest without any offense/defense offset just to make exactly that point.

    How ’bout that?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Well done, @michael-drew . I was indulging a bit of trolling, yes, but in an attempt to point out the absurdity of the league’s constant “THERE MUST BE A LAW” mentality and how the onus is always on the defense.

      I actually think one of the biggest advances in safety the league could adopt would be your PI suggestion, but I’d go further. Allow the offensive line to hold and the defensive backs to hold. This slows down unimpeded sprints into stationary bodies. It would also yield more of a run-based offense which would similarly curtail the high speed collisions. (Credit for this idea goes to Chuck Klosterman).

      But I get frustrated with the constant talk about “defenseless players”. Players are only defenseless when they put themselves in that position. If we don’t want defenseless players getting hit, then we should work with players on avoiding such situations as much as we should work with their opponents on avoiding hitting them. And, for the record, I do not see Gronk as defenseless on that play. He caught the ball, turned his head up field, and took several steps before the hit was laid.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I’d say that blocking is so much a part of every play that if you did that you’d similarly have players out there suddenly no longer having any idea what their entire game consists of. PI is a more circumscribed issue, though still certainly a big enough part of the game. Nevertheless, i’d be open to it. I w ould probably want to see how the PI change worked out and then og from there. Also, after I wrote that, it occurred to me that they could use the holding penalty to define the parameters of the receiver-DB battle in the absence of PI so that it could besomething short of outright no-holds-barred kombat that would basically eliminate route-running, but still not be subject to a basically arbitrary rule that grossly advantages the offense. But if you eliminated holding, you couldn’t do that.

        A broader point about offense/defense balance, norms of violence in the sport, and the nature of the sport and its history is also occurring to me right now, but I don’t have time to pursue it. I’ll try to get back to it later, though.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        …Also, FWIW, the whole “defenseless player” vocabulary is just a smokescreen the League put up to try to obscure/justify the interventions they felt they needed to make to legal play to defense-minded stakeholders. If I had to bet, I would bet that it was invented by defense-minded ex-players they brought in to help design and sell the new rules they have been putting in to other defense-minded stakeholders. It’s clearly a failure both as a governing and a marketing concept. They should absolutely ditch it and just say what is and isn’t legal like the unaccountable dictators they are and should strive to be.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        One way to approach the PI rule, ironically, would make it similar to line blocking. You can pretty much manhandle the guy inside his shoulder pads but you can’t grab and hold his arm, crush him from the backside, or take out his legs. I don’t know exactly what the parameters are on the five-yard “chuck” rule, but most instances of that look like what I’ve described.

        Other folks here have brought up the padding issue and I think it is spot on. I’ve played a ton of tackle football in my day, all of it sans pads. The only two concussions I’ve seen came from a player hitting his head on the frozen ground and a player (myself, actually) catching a random knee to the head. Those things will happen, but with far greater frequency than we are currently seeing. Most of our tackling was of the wrap up variety because no one was going to run head first without protection into other people. You’d sometimes get guys throwing body blocks at one another, but it was still mostly torso on torso, never head to head.

        You wouldn’t want to abandon pads in the NFL but you’d want to soften and shrink them. The issue would be convincing people that less “protective” gear equals more safety. You’d have to make some other changes (e.g., linemen can’t put their hand in the dirt), but those would be less impactful on the gameplay than a lot of what they are doing now.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Yeah, that would probably work. You can’t grab him around the waist and throw him down, despite the grab being inside the shoulder pads, so that would probably satisfy my concern with at least allowing routes to be run. Somehow I’m fine if you knock a player off his route with a push or bump, but not if you grab or tackle him. Maybe that’s dumb, but I think allowing tackling before the ball gets there would really mess up the whole passing game. But they should definitely allow a lot more contact of other kinds (shoving, bumping, hitting) IMO.

        The whole approach to protective equipment needs to be revisited, I agree. I foresee very little happening on that front in the near future, though, unfortunately. Too much money’s at stake in those contracts.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Somehow I’m fine if you knock a player off his route with a push or bump…

        Has to be before the ball is in the air, right? Otherwise you take away all of those passes that are complete because the QB has thrown the ball so that the receiver is between the ball and the defender, and PI is the only thing that keeps the defender from shoving the receiver so that he can’t catch the ball.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        The genesis of the idea comes as a way of tilting things in favor of the defense in order to open up space to govern contact in general more tightly (in an effort to satisfy real concerns over offense/defense balance that aren’t just desires, masquerading as offense/defense balance concerns, that are really just desire to protect existing tackling preferences of defenders). In that regard, taking away (many of) those passes would be a feature, not a bug. It may go too far (as I think allowing outright tackling would), but it has to go pretty far to be much of a concession. If you’re only offering a relaxation of the penalty on certain forms of contact between 5-7 yards out and the point of the release, you’re not offering much in the end.

        You might be right – it may just not be a workable concession. As I suggest, that’s no real skin off my nose, as to me there is an upside to just not offering a concession as a way of making the point. But OTOH, from the chatter I’m hearing, it doesn’t sound like the high-low restriction on tackling is really going to happen anyway, so it may be that sweeteners won’t just be something to soften the blow of rules like this, but they may not even be enough to get them done. (The discussions I’ve heard haven’t so much phrased the issue as one of offense/defense balance, rather than just flat-out claiming a thighs-to-chest rule is literally impossible to follow, full stop. I’m skeptical of that view, but I’m not an expert. The problem with the debate is that the only people who will be accepted as experts in it are people with experience playing defense in the NFL, and in my view they’re essentially an interested party. That’s why I favor a governing approach here that simply doesn’t claim to accountable to all stakeholders or experts: an outcome goal simply has to be defined, and rational, even if not relevant-expert-endorsed, steps taken to pursue it.)

        The defense-minded folks complain a lot about the few restrictions that are placed on what they can do to intimidate offensive players on the field, but the reality is that the “it’s a physical game” types still define the ethos of the League, and governing decisions are largely made in response to that, not in defiance of it.Report

  12. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Interestingly and coincidental enough, this very week MLB has proposed getting rid of ‘the play at the plate’ – i.e. where the runner from 3rd base slams into the catcher to jar the ball loose, but the precise details on how this rule is to be worded seem murky to me.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Having only seen headlines on the matter, I want to say this is one of the wisest decisions I’ve seen a sports league make in recent memory. There is no place for collisions at home plate. Neither player (runner or fielder) is allowed to engage in the action that leads to a home plate collision at any other base. Just word it that way.Report