Next week, it’ll be some young player who was fighting to make the roster during the last preseason game. The following week, it could be a Pro Bowler in prime time.
Every week, the NFL will say that something could be done. Eventually, something will be done.
Here’s a radical thought: Why not do it now?
Most recently, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson told the Associated Press that, if the NFL’s Competition Committee finds enough evidence “this season” that hits to the knees are “becoming a problem,” the league could take action. This echoes, with a bit more urgency, remarks made last week by new V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino.
“We are always looking at plays that may elevate themselves, and we do include in that category hits on defenseless players,” Anderson said. “And certainly the hits to knees to players who have not had the opportunity to protect themselves or are not looking in the direction of where the hit comes from — we have had a couple hits whereby a player was hit below [or at] the knees.”
Those “couple of hits” demonstrate that defenseless players definitely need protection against low hits, for the same reason they need protection against high hits. But there are no legal or political or parental reasons to protect knees the same way the NFL now protects heads.
Still, more and more players want the protection. While Steelers safety Ryan Clark already is complaining about changes that haven’t been made, Clark defensive teammate Larry Foote has said he’d have no problem with protecting defenseless offensive players against low hits.
Regardless of whether some players don’t want the protection, plenty do. So why wait? Even though the NFL rarely changes rules during a given season, this specific issue gives the league a perfect opportunity to show that the concern about player health and safety is something more than a strategy aimed at winning the current concussion lawsuits, and at preventing future ones.