We saw the clean hit Kam Chancellor put on Vernon Davis in week 17. We saw the flags fly giving the 49ers first and goal instead of the 4th and long they were facing. Then we saw on the replay that Chancellor’s hit on Davis was a textbook hit on a receiver that was intended to separate the ball from the receiver. So what gives? Defensive backs are complaining that it’s physically impossible to play their positions with the NFL’s well meaning but ill conceived new rules on how defensive backs are allowed to tackle receivers. The rules are not only impossible for players to obey given the unpredictable movement of the receiver, they are also impossible for a referee to correctly call. The new rules are causing players to get unwarranted fines, teams to get unwarranted penalties, and have changed the outcomes of a few games.
Another drawback of the new rule is defensive backs are afraid to tackle anyone high for fear of inadvertent helmet contact. The predictable result is they are now tackling around the knees of receivers and, as the 49ers Mario Manningham unfortunately found out, that can result in a blown out knee and a year out of the league while rehabbing the repaired but never to be the same joint. Aren’t we just trading concussions for destroyed knees?
So, what’s the answer? Players can go broke hitting high, and receivers can have their careers cut short by low tackles around the knees. Lacking a change in the laws of physics or a really high tech concussion-proof helmet, there’s one easy thing that can be done. How about using the red flag replay for those calls? When both the players and the refs can’t get a fair shake with a rule, it’s time to either change the rules again or use playbacks to fairly enforce the rules. It doesn’t make it any easier for the defensive back to avoid an inadvertent rule violation, but maybe when the receiver suddenly ducks his head replay will show it’s not the D-back’s fault; and at the very least replay can show when an unfairly flagged hit is a good legal hit. Sure it could open up a bag of worms as replay officials try to interpret a defender’s intent or a receiver’s reflexive “duck and cover” move, but it’s worth a try.
If something isn’t done about this issue football will continue to lose credibility as a contact sport. Now….what the hell is this garbage about eliminating the kickoff! DON’T GET ME STARTED!!!