By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, AFRO Sports Writers
New helmet rules in the NFL has players in the preseason puzzled. Unsure of where or how to take down incoming opponents coming at full speed, NFL defenders have been out of sorts with their tackling so far this summer. Desperate attempts to quiet safety concerns have resulted in league officers softening up the explosive contact of the game. But players, fans and even referees have struggled badly to differentiate between illegal contact and normal football. The regular season starts in another two weeks but is the NFL ready? Should the league change its new contact rules? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate.
An NFL football player holds his helmet as he warms up before a preseason game. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Riley: The NFL can’t turn back now and drastic changes should continue. The game is dying slowly from players suddenly retiring to dwindling youth participation. We probably won’t even recognize football as we know it today in another 10 to 15 years. Similar to how outdated the old school leather helmets are now, additional safety rules and limits on contacts are slowly turning professional football into flag football.
Green: The NFL catches a lot of heat but it’s still one of the most dominant sports leagues around. Easing up the amount of flags and turning things back into a play-if-you-dare mentality needs to be brought back. Injuries will happen at this level of football and players understand and receive that principle. Penalizing the players for punishing each other goes against everything they’ve ever been taught since Pop Warner. So far, the new rules have mucked the game up and made it a flag throwing contest for officials. Football is an aggressive game and now players are being faulted for being too aggressive. It’s silly.
Riley: It’s for health concerns. You can’t sweep data-filled reports and medical analyses under the rug anymore. The NFL is under immense pressure and every publicly televised concussion or season-ending injury just adds another punch to the gut for the NFL. Players need to adjust as the NFL attempts to lighten up the amount of physical punishment that players have to deal with. I’m not a fan of the new rules but I get what the league is trying to do and why they need to do something, anything to curve the amount of criticism that’s coming it’s way.
Green: The NFL has to be careful not to drive away the devoted fans by trying to please the critics. Altering the game and the way it’s played could have altering effects from which football may never recover. The league has to do something to flip things back and lay off the amount of flags being thrown for routine normal and natural contact. If tackle football is going to die out then the NFL should just end it. But don’t melt down the game and transform it. Either change it completely or keep with what has driven the league for decades.