For many die-hard football fans, half the fun of the game is the tackles, the touchdown dances, and the “unnecessary roughness.” Over the past year or so, the NFL has slowly and steadily cracked down on what players can and cannot do on the field. This year is no different.
As of next season, teams will be disciplined for players who are repeatedly fined for “flagrant” hits. The discipline, according to Rich McCay, co-chair of the competition committee, is designed not to change the rules but to change the emphasis. If the fines fail to work, it is possible for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to impose restrictions, including removing clubs’ draft choice.
On-field penalties will result for teams whose players who commit certain illegal hits. For instance, a 15-yard penalty will be assessed for any player who springs forward with both feet leaving the ground in order to deliver a blow to the helmet of another player with his own helmet. The player will also incur a fine.
The definition of a defenseless player has also been extended. According to the new NFL rules, a defenseless receiver is one who has not had adequate time to defend himself or has not begun to run, even if both feet are on the ground. Defenseless players are now those who are throwing, attempting to complete a catch without adequate time to avoid or block contact, a runner whose progress has been stopped by a tackler, kickoff or put returners if the ball is in the air, kickers and punters during the kick or during the return, a quarterback at possession change, and any player who is blindsided by a blocker while moving toward his own end zone.
According to new NFL rules, defenseless players must not be hit in the head or neck area with the shoulder, forearm, helmet, or facemask. Players who are penalized for such hits are subject to ejection.
The exception to the new rules is hits that are not considered to be forcible hits given to the head of a passer. These hits will not be penalized.