By Brett Johnson aka Chargerfan46

The greatest game ever invented, played by finely tuned athletes who know the risks inherent to the game. A sport I grew up loving and dreaming of playing as soon as I was old enough. A sport with tough guys like Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Lawrence Taylor, Mike Curtis, Chuck Bednarik, etc. A sport that requires the player to put their health and well being on the line with each and every snap. A sport that captivates an audience that is looking for the big play or that big, bone jarring hit. A sport that glamorizes the big hits and immortalizes players that deliver them in highlight videos and pictures. A sport like no other. Oh wait, that was the NFL I grew up loving and hoping to play in, not the current NFL with new rules for “Player safety” seemingly popping up each week.

I have no problem with the focus on player safety and the emphasis on concussion prevention and treatment. This rule is understandable and I applaud their hardline stance. Hopefully this will lead to safer equipment not more game play rules. (I remember the days of the ammonia tablet that was snapped open, stuck under the nose to clear the fog, then the player was sent back in. That should have never happened but in those days it was an acceptable practice. ) My problem started when they began to tweak the rules each year. First it was to create more scoring opportunities because people like to see points on the board. Soon receivers were allowed to run free down the field and defensive backs were at a huge disadvantage. Then it went to protecting the QB because he was the “face of the franchise”. Tom Brady abused every QB protection rule by whining every time a defensive player breathed on him after he released the ball. Then it was protecting a defenseless receiver. No big hits to jar the ball loose. This led to more receivers making catches receiving records began to fall. Now they are telling the ball carriers that they can not lower their heads while running with the ball. WHAT???? If you lower your shoulder to protect yourself or get the forward body lean to gain more yardage, your head naturally lowers. From Pop Warner to the Pros, players are taught to lower their shoulders “Low pad level”, to create a more powerful position and protect themselves. What will happen now? Will we see more injuries to running backs because they are afraid to lower their shoulders? Will they be more exposed? (To clarify, I am NOT an advocate for leading with the players eyes on the ground. Be it a defensive player or ball carrier.) Don’t referees have enough to watch already? Now there is talk to make both offensive and defensive lineman get off the ball from a two point stance. REALLY? I would love to see those short yardage situations using the two point stance. Where is football going? What is it becoming?

What will the NFL dream up next? Will it become the NTHTFL (National Two Hand Touch Football League)? Defensive players may only contact the runner between the mid thigh and base of the sternum. Contact must be made with an open hand and both hands must touch simultaneously. No extra tag force may be used ie; tagging hard enough to alter the runners course of direction causing him to fall. Or will it become the NFFL (National Flag Football League)? Players may only grab the flag in a non-violent manner making sure to avoid contact. Ball carriers may not, spin, jump, hurdle, juke or stiff arm. Blocking may only be used after the defensive line counts to eight alligators.

While I never reached my goal of making it to the NFL, I was fortunate enough to play for twelve years (four in Pop Warner, four in High School and four in College), and have now coached for the past 25 years (one in college and 24 in high school). My grandfather played, my father played, I have played and both of my boys are playing. When we signed up, we knew the risks and potential outcomes associated with our choice. Do I want the sport to be safe? Of course. But, safety should come from quality coaching of proper technique not additional rules that change the feel and flow of the game.