Will the NFL's New Hitting Rules Ruin Football?

The league cracks down on violent tackling

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After a grueling weekend of football, the NFL has decided to suspend players for "dangerous and flagrant hits that violate rules." A memo going out to players on Wednesday will give more specific details, but officials will likely crack down on tackles involving helmet-contact. In the past, players were subject to fines or ejections after illegal hits. The introduction of suspension will likely change the dynamics of the game. The news has some players and fans worried about the ramifications it will have on the sport. Others say this couldn't come soon enough to protect vulnerable professional athletes:

  • This Will Change Football Forever, writes Nicholas Carlson at Business Insider: "We believe the NFL will look very different 10 years from now." He predicts a number of new rules that could come about in the next decade:

No More Kick-Off Returns: The two most brutal recent injuries in football – Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand's spine break and Bills tight end Kevin Everett's neck injury – happened during kickoff returns. In 2020, the NFL might just have offenses start at the 20 every time.

No More Helmets: Helmets are supposed to protect players. But instead, they're used as weapons. If NFL teams practiced without helmets, players might not learn how to do that. The NFL could go further and just take helmets away on Sundays; hits would immediately get softer. A bonus: more marketable players with more recognizable faces.

No More Quarterback Sacks: If a quarterback sack resulted in just an incomplete pass – and not a loss of yardage – you can bet the players who are the faces of the league would undergo far fewer injuries. After an especially brutal week, this new policy can't come too soon. The NFL might consider implementing a program to educate players how to tackle as its next step.

  • This Won't Change Anything, writes Dave Zirin at The Nation: "There is no making football safer. There is no amount of suspensions, fines or ejections that will change the fundamental nature of a sport built on violent collisions. It doesn't matter if players have better mouth guards, better helmets or better pads. Anytime you have a sport that turns the poor into millionaires and dangles violence as an incentive, well, you reap what you sow."
  • This Is a Bad Decision, says Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards: "The suspension stuff is taking it a little far. It is football. We all signed up to play this game. Things happen. You can’t alter the way you play the game. I understand you’re doing it to protect the player but don’t take away from the game."
  • The NFL Needed to Act, writes Dawn Knight at The Washington Post: "Coaches used to tell players to shake it off and get back in the game. New, stricter guidelines and an NFL concussion committee have stressed the importance of player health, but this weekend emphasized the need to impose further sanctions on dangerous tackling... This new policy can't come too soon. The NFL might consider implementing a program to educate players how to tackle as its next step."
  • I Second That, writes Jim Trotter at Sports Illustrated: "The league has no choice but to step in when players ignore the inherent dangers -- and when players brazenly thumb their nose at the rules. Consider New England safety Brandon Meriweather and Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison, who both crossed the line last Sunday. Meriweather took a cheap shot at defenseless tight end Todd Heap, launching and hitting him so hard that Heap's mouthpiece flew downfield as if he had been shot from a cannon."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.