For the past couple of seasons, the national Football League has been trying to do the game of football safer—at least, if one believes the NFL"s side of the story. 

Commissioner roger Goodell has come to be known as the judge, jury and executioner of player punishment together he has actually presided over an increase in fines having actually to do with player safety. In a way, Goodell and the owners have actually tried to legislate safety right into an inherently unsafe game. 

This, of course, occurred at the very same time together a now-settled lawsuit by thousands of previous players that attested that the NFL purposefully deceived lock on the long-term dangers of concussions and also head trauma in pro football was being challenged by the league.

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If nothing else, the renewed focus on security has provided the league something to to mark on the legitimate telestrator. 

The "new" rule stem from prior to the 2011 season, as soon as the NFL chose to safeguard what the considers defenseless players. At that time, ray Anderson—who serves as the NFL"s executive, management vice chairman of football operations—told CBS Sports: 

Frankly, currently that the an alert has to be given, players and also coaches and also clubs are an extremely aware the what the focus is and also we won"t have that hesitation. Everyone will be very clearly on notice now that a suspension is very viable because that us and also we will exercise the ... As soon as it involves illegal access time to the head and neck area and also to defenseless players...


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Rules specifying a defenseless player were increased to include eight categories:

A quarterback in the act of throwing;A receiver trying to catch a pass;A runner currently in the grasp of tacklers and having his forward development stopped;A player fielding a punting or a kickoff;A kicker or punter during the kick;A quarterback at any time after adjust of possession;A receiver who receives a blind-side block;A player currently on the ground.

This year, the NFL is including yet one more wrinkle come the rulebook, outlawing attack players from lowering the crowns of their helmets come ward off protective players. 

For someone who grew up in the "golden era" that football, watching guys like san Francisco 49ers safety Ronnie Lott or Chicago bear linebacker Mike Singletary dishing the end hits, it"s straightforward to inquiry whether the "good ol" days" have actually come and also gone. 

Yet, it"s much more than a little quixotic to pretend as if the NFL is losing any kind of followers together a result of its effort to defend its players. It might make some die-hards pine because that "better" days, yet it"s additionally coincided through the ideal TV ratings and also fastest-rising TV dollars in the sport"s history. A purist might try to argue that the integrity and passion that the video game is an ext important 보다 money, however I don"t think the NFL owners space listening. 

Quibble through the intent and also necessity that the rules all you"d favor (there"s a great comment section below), but this obelisk is intended to fix one of my pets peeves. Rules space rules, and also the players know the rules—or, in ~ least, lock should. Fans, ~ above the other hand, hardly ever see the black and also white of that matter, to like to watch the civilization in shades of gray with highlights of their favorite team"s colors. 


As week 1 starts and also the season begins, right here is what illegal hits look choose in the NFL rulebook. 

Illegal access time on Quarterbacks

OK, we all know "roughing the passer," correct? But, go you recognize that roughing the passer accounts for an entire page in the NFL rulebook? In enhancement to hitting the quarterback after the has currently thrown the ball, the preeminence encompasses: lunging in ~ his knees, clubbing in ~ his throw hand and unnecessarily throwing the down with excess force.

Also from the rulebook under roughing the passer:

A defensive player need to not usage his helmet versus a passer who is in a defenseless posture—for example, (1) forcibly hitting the passer’s head or neck area v the helmet or facemask, even if the initial contact of the defender’s helmet or facemask is reduced than the passer’s neck, and regardless of even if it is the protective player likewise uses his eight to tackle the passer by encircling or grasping him; or (2) lowering the head and also making forcible call with the top/crown or forehead/"hairline" components of the helmet against any component of the passer’s body. This preeminence does not prohibit incidental contact by the mask or non-crown parts of the helmet in the food of a conventional tackle top top a passer. 

It is, if naught else, a whole lot of verbiage because that the general dominance that we currently know; "don"t fight a quarterback in the head, or hard...like, in ~ all. It also contains a whole lot of well lines which can enrage both the players on the field and the fans at home. 

Take this pat by Detroit Lions protective tackle Ndamukong Suh for example:

Suh is known as a dirty player ~ above the field. He to be flagged below for a hit on Chicago bear quarterback Jay Cutler, who allegedly got a forearm come the head. Top top replay, one have the right to see that plainly didn"t happen. So, in reality, Suh was merely fined because that being big, solid and a having actually a bad reputation.

The same might be said for Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher"s hit on new England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Brady is the patron saint when it comes to referees protecting quarterbacks, for this reason one expects this type of speak to when he"s involved. 

So what is the NFL searching for from a defender? from the rulebook:

When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless attitude (e.g., during or simply after cram a pass), a protective player should not unnecessarily or violently throw him down and land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight. Instead, the defensive player should strive to wrap up the passer v the protective player’s arms.


At least, the is what referees room looking for. Does that get called properly every time? Of food not, for this reason that"s what fans and media should hold them accountable for.

Illegal hits on Backs and also Receivers

Running backs room the least safeguarded players in all of football. While to run the ball, it"s assumed that high-speed collisions space going come be part of the equation. That said, there room still part rules because that defenders to follow. 

First, tripping is usually something we expect to be referred to as on offensive players tripping increase defenders (similar come the leg-whip call), yet a defender on the ground that attempts to trip up a runner fairly than tackle him could be called for a penalty—even if that"s what we would certainly logically intend the defender come do.

There is likewise hitting a runner while that is out of bounds. This is frequently viewed as much more of a judgement speak to by the refs once it really isn"t. The NFL rulebook plainly puts the onus on defensive players in these instances:

Defensive players must make an initiative to protect against contact. Football player on defense are responsible for learning when a runner has crossed the boundary line, other than in doubtful instances where he could step top top a boundary line and also continue parallel v it.

That"s nice clear, and also gives far less advantage of the doubt than many fans would more than likely like.

Then, we acquire to the aforementioned section the the rulebook. This prohibits any hits to the head of the runner or by the head of the defender top top runners who do not have the ability to protect themselves and/or are not in a defensive posture. 

Again, the burden of proof is placed on defensive players:

A player who initiates contact against a defenseless adversary is responsible for avoiding an illegal act. This has illegal contact that may occur during the procedure of attempting to dislodge the sphere from one opponent. A traditional of strict liability applies for any type of contact versus a defenseless opponent, also if the adversary is an airborne player who is returning to the ground or who body place is otherwise in motion, and also irrespective of any type of acts through the defenseless opponent, such as ducking his head or curling increase his human body in anticipation the contact.

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Consider this hit by Chicago bears linebacker Jon Bostic:


It was, at first, heralded by just about everyone together a an excellent play by the rookie linebacker. Then, Bostic got his good letter via FedEx and also the NFL had to go around explaining exactly why it to be illegal. 

Again, it"s a bang-bang play, and exactly the sort of effort and also tenacity the coaches desire to see, yet the rulebook states that Bostic needs to make certain that he"s not leading v his helmet. 

Illegal access time on Specialists

Alongside the rarely referred to as penalty of sliding under the kicker or punter in bespeak to protect against him from returning to the ground, many roughing-the-kicker or roughing-the-punter penalty occur due to the fact that the defender has initiated call with either the kicking foot or the plant leg that the specialist.

There room some renowned caveats, however: A defender have the right to be blocked into the specialist, and the specialist can be held accountable for attempting to "draw" the foul by his own actions. Also, if the professional attempts to run in any way—even to attempt a rugby-style kick or "quick kick"—he"s same game. 

Special treatment is taken in regard to the plant leg, as that is the many defenseless body component of nearly any player top top the football field. Consider the knee that the plant leg prefer a car without shock absorbers. With all of the load of the human body on it, it is about as sturdy as a couple of twigs hosted together through a rubber band. A stray hit over there can end a kicker"s career nearly instantly. 

The rulebook gets right to the suggest in the final note: "When in doubt, it is a foul because that roughing the kicker."


Other Illegal access time on players in jeopardized Positions

One of the dirtiest access time in current memory come on a play the is currently illegal. Defenseless players are now safeguarded after a adjust in possession. Here is hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp blowing up Packers offensive tackle Chad Clifton:

At the time, this to be legal a football play. Sapp didn"t recognize which direction Clifton would certainly move and whether he might make the ultimate tackle, therefore Sapp played all out until the whistle—just favor young players space taught. 

It"s also clearly a attention play, which is now against the rules. 

Players are also protected from blows to and also from the head throughout blindside block in i beg your pardon an offensive player is moving parallel come the heat of scrimmage, and illegal crack-back blocks in which the offensive player supplies his head. Let"s just call this one the "Hines Ward Rule." Here"s Seattle Seahawks receiver gold Tate being called for such an illegal block on Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee:

In addition, football player are protected when castle are already on the floor or in the action of sliding; once they are currently in the master of a tackler or once they room receiving a absent or a punt. Again, it"s totally up to defenders to know every one of these rules and to abide by them together the NFL looks for to do the game a more secure place. 

That, in a nutshell, is the bottom heat here. The NFL realizes that is impossible to make the game safe—I don"t think Goodell or the owners are that deluded. No, but safer is a opportunity as the league attempts to relocate forward with new rules (along with new technology and brand-new medical advances).