With advances in research over the years, especially as it relates to head injuries, the NFL has been forced to change and add many rules in order to protect the health of the players that play in it. The solution is never simple, and never without critics, so the debate constantly rages on about just how far the NFL can take the increased safety rules before it is “ruining the purity of the game”. One can certainly argue about the merits of that argument (and there are certainly valid concerns that you can’t limit defensive players too much without ruining the value of having a defense at all). The idea that the rules debate is an endless one was certainly on display after the games this weekend.
During the Week 6 games, many big-name players went down with serious injuries that once again sparked debate about changing the rules. Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb went down with a serious knee injury after a direct helmet hit to his knee after making a reception. This is the play that certainly created the most controversy, although there were injuries to Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, Dallas running back DeMarco Murray, and others that also created conversation. Anyway, after Cobb went down with his injury, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and other Packers players begin to express some dismay about the play that caused Cobb’s injury. The argument is that defensive players shouldn’t be allowed to lead with their helmet at a sensitive area like the legs of a player–keep in mind, defensive players are already (rightfully so) prohibited from targeting a player from the neck up. While the Packers certainly have a valid point that there should probably be some rule that can protect an important extremity like the legs of an offensive player, there also needs to be some consideration about if instituting such a rule would limit defenses too much from being able to make a tackle, and thus make offenses scoring on defenses a trivial matter. The NFL does need to hold the health of its players as its primary concern, but it does also need to protect in some way the sanctity of the game. If there’s one thing that is clear, however, it is that there really isn’t a solution that can please everyone.