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Defense is Now Defenseless in the NFL

BUCs vs Saints 2013 Clayborn Brees

By Jan Boger –

I was gonna write a recap of my Tampa Bay Buccaneers last minute loss for the second week in a row, but that was too painful! The first loss was to the New York Jets with the Jets pulling out the win with approximately 34 seconds left in the game.

The Buccaneers succumbed to the New Orleans Saints in their last game with only 2 seconds left. Both times the BUCs were victimized by field goals.

Instead I want to tell you about how the NFL is changing the game. The NFL is in its second year of implementing an initiative to stop helmet to helmet contact by players. Of course the reasoning is that the NFL wants to protect its employees from concussion injuries.

That sounds noble for a company to want to protect their employees from injury, but are their motives that noble? The real reason may be to protect themselves from future litigation. These football players are NFL employees. And as an employee, they are eligible for reasonable & customary employee protection.

It’s the same principle as when an average blue collar employee files a workers compensation claim for an injury they incur while on the job. With many players from the past coming forward to complain about debilitating injuries sustained while they were employed by the NFL, the league got nervous that they could see a ton of worker’s comp cases being filed.

Therefore, to avoid having to make a more expensive pay out in the future they did a “plea bargain” & settled with the 400 + players who had filed a claim against the NFL. They put aside a boatload of money for these players & all NFL players.

To avoid future litigation they had to put forward a good will gesture to show that they are trying to improve work place safety for these current & future NFL players/employees. And therein lies the changing of the game rules to limit the number of helmet to helmet hits. Basically, helmet to helmet penalties are called under the guise of “unnecessary roughness” or “personal foul” penalties.

There has been no grace period to allow players to adjust, the NFL’s mentality is that you change the way you play or you suffer the consequences which includes yardage penalties for the team, monetary penalties for the player, & if repetitive, then game suspensions for the players. Here are the stats on the number of unnecessary roughness/ personal foul penalties called for the first 2 games of each season:

2011 = 15
2012 = 23
2013 = 41
This is a 44% increase in the number of penalties called from 2012 to 2013.

I have no real issue with the NFL trying to make their work place safer, but I do have a problem with how they are enforcing it. There are 2 issues:

The first is that the referees are forced to make split second decisions about helmet to helmet hits. In doing this, if a player’s head jerks back after a tackle, then often the ref will err on the side of caution & call a penalty on the defensive player.

There is no way for the player or team to challenge these calls. Therefore, the NFL must make all of these calls reviewable just like they review all touchdowns. These calls MUST be correct because they impact the game, the teams, & the players committing these supposed penalties.

Case in point, an unnecessary roughness penalty was called on Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s Adrian Clayborn when he tackled Saints Drew Brees resulting in a fumble by Brees.

The unnecessary roughness penalty was called with no review. But on playback it was clear that Adrian Clayborn’s tackle was clean when he tackled Brees at the shoulder pads while their helmets only grazed each other. There is no way to make these clean tackles without helmets at least making some minimal contact. This was a bad call that clearly hurt the Buccaneers & caused Clayborn to be fined for a legal hit.

By the way, the NFL is not going to back pedal & not fine these players even if they recognize the hit is legal. There is no way they are going to embarrass the league referees.

The second issue I have is that these penalties are being called primarily on the defensive players. Why aren’t they being called on offensive players as well? Of the 41 unnecessary roughness/ personal foul penalties called the first 2 games, only a handful were called on offensive players.

Many of the running backs are lowering their head when being tackled initiating helmet to helmet contact. If the NFL is serious about limiting the number of helmet to helmet hits then they need to be judicious & fair & make these calls on all players causing these hits.

I don’t want to accuse the NFL of a conspiracy but could it be that the NFL wants these games to be high scoring? They assume fans want to see lots of touchdowns & are not really interested in superior defensive play. I, for one LOVE defense! Therefore, because the NFL promotes an offensively driven league they continue to direct the referees to mainly target the defensive & not the offensive players.

There is no grassy knoll involved in NFL football but it sure makes you wonder! I LOVE defense but the defense in the NFL has almost become defenseless!

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  1. Pingback: Defense is Now Defenseless in the NFL FEATURED BUCS ARTICLE | Buccaneers - NFC South Daily | Tampa Bay Buccaneers Blog

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