Steelers safety Troy Polamalu says that if the NFL is going to keep passing rules designed to protect the players, the players should get a vote in those rules.
“There’s rule changes every year,” Polamalu said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I do wish, however, that the NFL did have a voice from the players’ side, whether it’s our players’ union president, or team captains, or our executive committee on the players’ side. Because we’re the guys that realize the risk, we’re the guys on the field.”
Polamalu made his statements within the context of a discussion of the new rule against delivering forcible blows with the top of the helmet outside the tackle box — a rule change that the Competition Committee did, in fact, ask for player input on before presenting the change to the owners, who approved it by a vote of 31-1. Polamalu said that while he’ll learn to live with the rule, he worries that the game is changing too much.
“We’re professional athletes, so we can adjust, but we grow up understanding instinctively how to play the game of football, and it’s really hard to say, ‘OK, eventually I’m not going to be able to use my head, or wrap with my arms’ or whatever it may be,” Polamalu said. “I think you can only do so much to the game before you really start to change the essence of our sport. Our sport is not made for anybody to be able to play it, especially at the NFL level, so there’s obviously some risk that we all take knowingly.”
In Polamalu’s view, there’s a point at which rules designed to make the game safer in reality just make the game softer.
“Football is a very physical sport, and a lot of what separates the good from the great [is] the ability to receive contact, to give contact, to overcome the mental block of injury when you have contact,” Polamalu said. “I understand that they want the sport to be safer but eventually you’re going to start to take away from the essence of this game and it’s not really going to be the football that we all love and have a passion for.”
And so Polamalu joins the list of players who respond to the rules designed to protect them by saying they don’t want to be protected.