Like Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, I am not against making football safer. What I am against, however, is the NFL creating new rules that make strides toward taking hitting out of the game and making the NFL look more like two-hand touch than professional football. With the latest set of rules the NFL owners passed earlier this week, that is exactly what they are doing.
The 32 owners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve rules amendments for player safety, including a measure aimed at keeping a player from launching himself into a defenseless opponent. A 15-yard penalty will result for anyone who leaves both feet before contact to spring forward and upward into an opponent and delivers a blow to the helmet with any part of his helmet.
But wait, there's more!
The definition of a defenseless receiver already has been extended. Now, a receiver who has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner even if both feet are on the ground is considered defenseless.
Defenseless players cannot be hit in the head or neck area with the helmet, face mask, forearm or shoulder. The definition of such players now includes those throwing a pass; attempting or completing a catch without having time to ward off or avoid contact; a runner whose forward progress has been stopped by a tackler; kickoff or punt returners while the ball is in the air; kickers or punters during a kick or a return; a quarterback during a change of possession; a player who receives a blindside block from a blocker moving toward his own end zone.
Players that violate these rules will be subject to fines and even ejections. Also, teams that have players who commit "multiple flagrant hits that result in fines" will be subject to punishment from the league. The punishment will likely be fines, but apparently taking away draft picks hasn't been ruled out, which is just freaking wonderful.
Harrison wrote a great blog post about these rules, and he summed up my thoughts on them in this tweet:
I'm absolutely sure now after this last rule change that the people making the rules at the NFL are idiots.
I couldn't have said it better myself.