NFL rules changes are so often harshly criticized by NFL players that it seems noteworthy any time any player comes forward to say he likes a new rule. Of course, when it’s Brian Cushing speaking out in favor of the new rule against low blocks from behind, he’s speaking from first-hand experience.
Cushing’s 2012 season was cut short by a torn ACL suffered when he got hit in the knee from behind by the Jets’ Matt Slauson, and although that kind of block was already illegal (and Slauson was fined $10,000), Cushing said today in an interview with Trey Wingo on NFL Live that the NFL’s decision to strengthen the rule was wise.
“It makes me feel better. Obviously it was not a good situation for me, but if it prevents further injuries in the future, then it’s a good thing,” Cushing said.
The new rule, passed by the league’s owners in March, says a player who is aligned in the tackle box when the ball is snapped cannot initiate contact on the side and below the waist against an opponent if the blocker is moving toward his own end line and if he approaches the opponent from behind or from the side. Previously this was only illegal if the player who was in the tackle box at the snap moved outside the tackle box.
Frankly, it’s surprising that it took the NFL this long to implement this rule. Paul Zimmerman started championing the cause of banning cut blocks from behind in the 1980s, when Don Shula and Tex Schramm were running the Competition Committee, and scores of defensive players have complained through the years that offensive players were able to take legal cheap shots at their knees. It shouldn’t have taken until Cushing’s high-profile injury in 2012 for the rule, finally, to be changed in 2013, but Cushing is right: This change is a good thing.