The NFL enacted several rules changes this week at the NFL owners meetings in California. It seemed for every rule change or clarification, coaches were offering different reactions.
Among those coaches who responded to questions about the new rules was Minnesota's Brad Childress. A number of the new rules were put in place for player safety. In some cases, however, a rule that protects some players may actually open up others for more violent collisions. Such could be the case with a new rule limiting more than two players wedging together as part of the kickoff return team.
"The two-hit-one is still there, it's still allowed," Childress said. "The other thing that was brought up was, ‘What about the returner?' You're saying you can't protect him with the wedge and you can't have four guys together and somebody can go directly to the returner. Somebody was asking me earlier, (saying) those are great hits and you're going to eliminate those hits. Remember, we're going back to player safety issues and they haven't liked some of those collisions. A few years ago, they said you can't go low on the wedge. Now we're going high and we're getting some more injuries.
"I think the thing in general with athletes these days is they're so much stronger and so much more powerful. There is so much more force and speed that's initiated. I'm not an exercise physiologist. You can add that mass and that speed and that explosion, and we all keep track of the numbers and the bench press numbers and three-cone drills and they keep going up and up and up and up (for lifting reps), or down and down and down, which indicates speed. But I don't know that anterior cruciate ligaments have stayed up with that. I don't think the evolution has occurred where those things are (getting bigger)."
While the wedge rule is getting some play in the media, Childress doesn't think more than two players regularly wedge together on kickoff returns anyway, so it could be a rule that doesn't come into play very often.
"Unless somebody got canned at the other end, rarely do you see three guys hit one, but you're always going to see two hit one," he said.
The other rule being discussed and written about often in the media this week is what is being dubbed the "Ed Hochuli Rule," named after the referee who made the mistake in a Denver-San Diego game and ruled a fumble an incomplete pass, which nearly cost the Chargers a chance at the playoffs.
Childress indicated that allowing a play like that to continue on despite one of the officials ruling it an incomplete pass could cause some confusion. Defensive players who saw the play develop will be taught to continue playing despite an official ruling a pass incomplete while offensive players could assume the play is over.
"You're still going to have a referee running in selling the call, saying incomplete. Typically when he's doing that, he's blowing the whistle. We've kind of become a whistle-less NFL," Childress said. "… Defensively, you'd better play on to come up with the football. So you are going to have some people that are playing the whistle by ear and you're going to have the defensive guys that are looking at it, that are seeing it, and continue to play on. And then you're going to have the ability to replay that, and it has to be a clear recovery. You can't go into a scrum situation."
Childress was asked if he disagreed with the new rule.
"I think it's good to get that right. I don't know what the perfect solution is," he said.
The so-called "Hochuli Rule" isn't the only change being associated with a referee or player. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is associated with a new rule that states defenders on the ground can lunge at a quarterback to hit him below the knees with their shoulders or helmet. A play like that by Bernard Pollard ended Brady's season last year.
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward is also associated with a new rule that says players cannot make blindside helmet-to-helmet blocks on another player, another rule designed for player safety.
"It doesn't do any good if you're carting people off. It may be a highlight-reel hit, but you're still talking about human beings still in all. That's the reason for the change in the wedge," Childress said. "It's a violent game at best … but we've got broken necks, broken shoulders. It's not something that we like to see."
Childress reacts to rules changes
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