The genesis of the NFL’s attempt to prevent head injuries is genuine. Don’t allow players to lead with the head and deliver a crushing blow will lead to less concussions, and potentially slow down the rapid wave of CTE cases being announced by past football players.
While this sounds like an uphill battle, the NFL has to do something, right?
Well, they did just that with their new ‘targeting’ rule, which is similar to the rule put in place last season by the NCAA to avoid head injuries at the college level. The only issue with this rule is the players are wondering just how it will impact the game they grew up playing, love and an utilize as an occupation.
In case you aren’t sure what the new rule consists of, it essentially means a player cannot hit with the crown of his helmet, in any circumstance, or they could be subject to a 15-yard penalty and possible ejection.
For Pittsburgh Steelers offensive guard David DeCastro, he is wondering just what the rule will do to the battle in the trenches.
“I just can’t wait until the referees come into training camp like they do every year, and they show us the videos of what to do and not do in the rule changes,” DeCastro told Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I just can’t wait to see it because I have no idea what they’re talking about. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“You’re taught from a young age, the low man wins,” DeCastro added. “Get your head lower than theirs. It’s like the nature of the game. You might as well take the ball away while you’re at it.”
“We’re going to look like sumo wrestlers,” DeCastro said. “Put our bellies against each other.”
Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva added a positive wrinkle to the new rule, which is having to worry about one pass rush, if the league deems it illegal.
“I’m really happy if that means they cannot bull rush, leading with the head,” he said. “That takes away one pass rush move. But I’m with Dave. What I don’t want is an ambiguous rule. They’re not going to call it on a bull rush but they are on a [guard] pull, if Dave hits a linebacker with the head because he’s trying to get lower? I don’t know how you can call it without making the game like flag football.”
As I stated earlier, the origin of this rule is genuine, but now the NFL enters the extremely difficult area of trying to make it work within the framework of the game which fans have loved, partly due to the brutality of it all.
Some rule changes take time to become part of the every day game, and this will certainly be one of those rules. Hopefully it doesn’t make the game almost unwatchable in the process.