Super Bowl

Safety in Football: A Defensive Play

Niala Samnarine

By Niala Samnarine

June 26, 2014

NFLOL GameAction2…and I’m not talking about the 2-points you get in the end zone!

Football has undergone a transformation. Not just the uniforms and the team colors, but the game itself. From new rules and new fines, to advances in technology, the NFL in particular is looking for ways to make sure their players don’t incur any unnecessary and avoidable injuries.

Read on for the updates in rules in the past decade that have contributed to this evolution.

New Rules


In an effort to make sure the defense doesn’t continue to go after someone once their helmet comes off, the ball is declared dead on the spot if a runner’s helmet comes off completely.


The restraining line for the kicking team is moved from the 30- to the 35-yard line in an effort to increase touchbacks.

All kicking team players other than the kicker must be lined-up no more than five yards behind their restraining line, eliminating the 15-20 yard running "head start" that had become customary for many players.

A receiver who has completed a catch is a "defenseless player" until he has had time to protect himself or has clearly become a runner. A receiver/runner is no longer defenseless if he is able to avoid or ward off the impeding contact of an opponent. Previously, the receiver who had completed a catch was protected against an opponent who launched and delivered a blow to the receiver's head.

The list of "defenseless players" is expanded to include a kicker/punter during the kick or during the return, a quarterback at any time after a change of possession, and a player who receives a "blindside" block when the blocker is moving toward his own endline and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side.


Helmet-to-helmet contact now strictly enforced and heavily fined.

no helmet football

A player who has just completed a catch is protected from blows to the head or neck by an opponent who launches.


Roughing The Passer: Low hits on the quarterback are prohibited when a rushing defender has an opportunity to avoid such contact


Horse Collar Illegal: It is illegal to grab the inside collar of the shoulder pads to tackle a runner "horse-collar tackle". (Expanded in 2006 to include grabbing the inside collar of the jersey.)

Unnecessary Roughness: Unnecessarily running, diving into, or throwing the body against a player who should not have reasonably anticipated such contact by an opponent is unnecessary roughness. Previously, the rule only protected a player who is out of the play.

Which rules in the past decade have had the biggest impact? Are there any rules you think would address player safety without changing the game?

New Technology

NFLOL Player1

Professional football looks to be taking a page out of the college football playbook. Specifically the University of North Carolina football program’s. With strides being made in applied sports science, teams can now look forward to more fine tuned head accelerometers.

These devices are meant to be fitted into players’ helmet to measure the location, frequency and magnitude of impact. While this isn’t a measure of actual concussions, using this data along with game video can help coaches teach players new ways to play to minimize the risk of head to head collisions and in turn lower (if not eliminate) the instances of concussions.

(Source: USA Today)

Two teams were part of the pilot project for half of the 2013 season, and it is expected that all 32 teams will subscribe to this new technology as soon as 2015. Players, management and coaches agree that this will greatly benefit players and reduce the risk of head trauma.

However, some players feel as though this will have a financial impact, as their head injuries may be used against them in contract negotiations. 

(Source: 110nationsports)

What are your thoughts? Do you think head accelerometers will mainly benefit players and the sport? Do you think there are any real drawbacks? How do you think this new tech will impact big games like the Super Bowl or Pro Bowl? Share in the comments below!

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