The NFL’s annual meetings with convene with no proposal on the table from the Competition Committee or any of the league’s 32 teams to remove the rule that allows the ballcarrier to be pushed by a teammate.
During a Friday morning preview of the meetings, Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay addressed the failure of anyone to put the potential rule change on the table.
“There was plenty of discussion about it,” McKay said. “There are people within the Committee and people within the [32-team] survey that weren’t big fans of the play, and were concerned about the safety aspect of it. We did not have any injury data from it from this year. . . . I do think it’s something we’ll look at and continue to study if that changes.”
The deliberate use of the rule that allows a coach to deploy teammates to shove a quarterback into and through the line of scrimmage hasn’t been utilized enough times to create “injury data.” Maybe this year, if other teams in a copycat league decide to copy the Eagles, there will be enough iterations to have reliable information to ascertain injury risk.
This is, frankly, another example of the league’s chronic failure of imagination. Of proactive thought. Of preventing bad things from happening before they do.
How hard is it to envision that a quarterback can get injured if he’s being shoved from behind into a defense that is pushing hard the other way? Of course there’s an injury risk. To the most important player on the field.
And that’s before, as Peter King noted on Friday’s PFT Live, defenses adapt to this perfectly legal strategy and come up with perfectly legal ways to combat it. The quarterback, as a runner, is fair game for anything and everything but the lowering of a helmet into him by an opponent.
It’s a free shot at the quarterback. Open season. Hit him high, hit him low. Just don’t hit him with a lowered helmet.
Inevitably, a quarterback will be injured during this type of play. The NFL may act surprised when it happens. But it shouldn’t. The risk is there. The data will follow the injury.
That really is one of the league’s biggest problems. It often lacks foresight when it comes to anticipating possible worst-case scenarios.
Given the obsession with keeping quarterbacks healthy — to the point that the league is content to tolerate hypersensitivity to roughing the passer — someone should be standing up and showing leadership on an issue that could result in a starting quarterback suffering a serious squishing injury.
And, frankly, in situations like this, the leadership should come from the man whose signature appears on every NFL football. Even if no one else will stand up and say it, Roger Goodell needs to be the one to say this rule is bad for the game.
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