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In hindsight, most new NFL rules are never as bad as you think

Like its decision to extend the extra point a few years ago, it's doubtful the NFL's new Targeting Rule will alter your football enjoyment in 2018.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Like most springs after yet another rule change, I was in a bit of a snit a few years ago when the NFL announced it would be moving extra points back starting in the 2015 season.

I figured increasing the length of a post-touchdown try would create at least a few infamous moments for kickers and fans, alike. No doubt kickers would get cut because of this and ultimately wind up on some “Where Are They Now?’ special 20 years down the road, where they’d be interviewed by someone while attending their grandchild’s soccer match.

Yes, there was no way everyone was going to get away unscathed by the NFL Competition Committee’s desire to create yet another rule for--as far as I was concerned--the sake of creating another rule.

But here we are, with three full seasons in the books, and the 33-yard extra point era seems about as normal as the 18-yard extra point era was.

Sure, the percentage of extra points made dropped from over 99 percent in 2014--the last year of the shorter extra point--to 94.2 in 2015, while coaches went for two points a record 94 times that season, but did it totally ruin your football viewing experience?

Haven’t you just gotten used to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, the riverboat gambler that he is, going for two points more than most—even when the situation doesn’t call for it?

Other than that unfortunate night against the Cowboys at Heinz Field on November 13, 2016, when Pittsburgh failed on all four two-point tries in a 35-30 loss, I can’t think of another moment when I rued the reality of the NFL’s decision to entice coaches to go for two by making one a little tougher more than I did the conception of it.

Besides, you ever go back and watch old Steelers/NFL games? I did last fall, during the bye week, and watching Jeff Reed nail extra point after extra point, well, it just seemed unfair to the goalposts (kind of like dunking a basketball while standing on a ladder).

I’ve lamented other rule changes in the past, such as penalizing players for dunking over the goalposts and other things I thought would totally alter the game, but so far, nothing has successfully ruined my viewing pleasure.

Which brings me to the now, and the NFL’s new rule--the Targeting Rule--which prohibits any player--ball carrier, tackler, whomever--from leading with the crown of his helmet.

Like my little snit a few years ago regarding the extended extra point, this has led many people to question where football is headed with regards to its physicality.

Even Steelers highly decorated right guard David DeCastro got in on the lamenting recently, when he wondered about the application of the targeting rule and how it will affect linemen around the league.

I get that, but if DeCastro or any other player out there (not to mention reporters and fans) thinks that linemen won’t be able to make contact with their helmets, they’re just overreacting.

That’s also the case with tacklers and ball-carriers--they will be allowed to contact one another with their helmets.

I think it’s quite clear what the NFL is trying to achieve with the targeting rule, and that’s to not only lessen concussions and CTE, but to avoid the kinds of tragic and life-altering injuries like the one inside linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered against the Bengals last December.

Basically, it shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect players to see what they’re tackling (a basic fundamental even I learned when I played midget football as a 12-year old--and I mostly sucked).

Because of this rule, will we see an increase in 15-yard penalties in 2018 and beyond?


Will we sometimes find ourselves holding our heads in disbelief after an official’s confusing interpretation of this new rule involving head safety?

There’s no doubt about that.

But if it prevents even one player from having a “Where Are They Now?” story produced about him years from now--a story that includes video of him doing his daily chores while in a wheelchair--I think it will be worth it.

Finally, I doubt the Targeting Rule--like every other rule the NFL has enacted in its history--will truly lessen my enjoyment in 2018.

OK, there’s the Catch Rule, which will likely make me break a few glasses, but there are always exceptions.