Editorial: An NFL rule change that would make sense

By on August 1, 2013

Raise your hand if you like to watch football.

We’re guessing that most of the people reading this currently have their hand in the air, and for good reason: football is an incredible sport that blends brute strength with speed and fluidity; high drama with a level of grit that simply doesn’t exist in other sports.

And let’s face it: we love the big hits that often occur during a football game. Pregame and halftime shows have segments solely dedicated to showing the biggest hits of the week.

Problem is, those big hits—the ones that are so entertaining for us viewers —aren’t nearly as enjoyable for those who happen to be on the receiving end of them. Add in the fact that the NFL currently has a substantial problem regarding the use of human growth hormone (HGH) and other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) among its players, and suddenly you’re talking about hits that just aren’t big.

They could be deadly.

Last week, we talked about how PEDs had nearly brought the game of baseball to ruin. Like Major League Baseball, the NFL has a long history of athletes who juiced to set themselves ahead of the pack in terms of strength, speed and durability. The big difference between the sports, obviously, is that one is a game in which guys try to hit a ball as hard and as far as possible, and the other is a game in which very large men try to hit each other, often at full speed and sometimes at angles that result in horrific injuries: torn knee ligaments, dislocated fingers and shoulders, broken bones, concussions and, if you’re former New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley, paralysis.

Now, don’t get us wrong—we’re not advocating less hitting in football, nor are we even suggesting that further rule changes should go into effect in order to protect players. Trust us, the NFL has done plenty to make the game safer, and some might say that the league has turned obsessive in its approach to take injuries out of the game. That’s a debate for another day, though.

Rather, what we’re simply suggesting is that, in a league built on bone-rattling hits, it might be a good idea to make sure players are playing up to their body’s full capability, not a superhuman level made possible by HGH use. It hurts enough to be tackled by a guy running full speed; imagine what it feels like to be hit by a guy running at a speed similar to that of an automobile.

Think about it: on any given Sunday you’ll see a 250-pound linebacker flattening a running back who was unfortunate enough to get to the second level of defense without any sort of blocking or protection. Let’s say that the linebacker runs a 4.5 40-yard dash and bench presses about, oh, 400 pounds or so. You’re basically talking about an automobile on cleats at that point. Humans aren’t supposed to be able to consistently absorb such an accelerated level of contact.

And we wonder why concussions are rampant in the modern NFL. We wonder why our favorite players can’t make it through an entire season without breaking their collarbone or tearing their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Accidents are a way of life when it comes to contact sports, but take the PEDs out of the game and watch how certain aspects of the game will change. Players will move slower and won’t look like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. They’ll also take longer to heal from their injuries. Will these results make the NFL more exciting? Of course not. But it will put the league’s players on a more-level playing field, so to speak.

Those players will also be much more likely to get up after taking one of those big hits that football fans love to see.