When Worlds Collide

By Alex Kozora (Chidi29)

October 27, 2010

Jon Stewart is hosting a "Rally to Restore Sanity" in Washington at the end of this month.

The league and its fans could use a dose of the same.

There's been a mention of injury-causing hits very recently. And by mention, I mean an explosion of talk on television and Internet alike. The league has gotten much criticism for their response to the hits. It hasn't been the polite, wear-your-top-hat-and-monocle talk, either. Yelling and overall anger are the popular methods.

For a moment, let's take a step back and attack this problem rationally.

There are two factors we, as fans and the league, have to accept. If we don't do that, we'll never make any progress in regulating player safety.

As fans, we have to understand rules for player safety will increase. It is unavoidable. Think about it from Goodell's side for just a minute. He has two powerful organizations, Congress and the NFLPA, breathing down his neck to increase player safety. This is about the NFL having to follow through on their comments to make the game safer and attempt to prevent concussions. The only way to do that is to either make stricter rules or stricter consequences. The league is actually doing the latter. No new rules have been created. They'll force the NFL to be accountable should something tragic happen to a player because of a perceived lack of safety rules. The event of Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, paralyzed from the neck down after a collision, likely had an influence on this. They've already seen this happen to former Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett.

In the midst of labor negotiations between the league and the union, now isn't the time to take a stand against player safety. At least, that's how the NFLPA will take it and rip Goodell for it.

As players become bigger, faster, and stronger, the chance for injury greatly increases. As does the need for safety. Like it or not, it's inevitable.

The league has to understand that they'll never be able to wipe away terrible injuries or the potential for one. This is football after all. You can't try to negate a situation every time someone suffers an injury. Not that they've done that, but it could happen down the road with all the publicity it's getting. The collisions that are serious, repeated occurrences should be the focus.

The two biggest issues are:

Finding balance between the first points I made. Injuries should be prevented and attempted to be, but they can't be wiped out. A sport with preparation and collision has to be created. Easier said than done, I know that. That's why it's an issue.

Maybe even bigger is the seemingly lack of clarity there are in the rules. "Defenseless receiver"? What deems a player to be defenseless? Time between catch and hit? Position of his body? We're getting a ton of different interpretations of the rules.

What the league needs to do is to explicitly go through every possible situation of a collision and say whether it's legal or not. Clarity is the key. That goes hand in hand with preparation. With gray area, no one knows if a hit is legal until it's already happened.

This means creating a long, potentially complicated rule book. But it's needed. Clarity and consistency are the best ways to enforce rules. It's like a home umpire and his strike zone. The hitter may not like it, the pitcher may not like it, but as long as both sides know what will be called a ball/strike and it is done on a consistent basis, each player will be able to deal with the situation.

The best approach isn't yelling and rage-filled rants. That gets everyone nowhere. It's about being solution-oriented.

That and a little bit of sanity.

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