For years, pro football has allowed cut blocking. One type of cut blocking is chop blocking. And chop blocking now may be going the way of the dodo bird, Ray Rice, and the “how many fingers?” concussion test.
At their Saturday meeting in Naples, Florida, the NFL’s Competition Committee discussed getting rid of the chop block completely.
“The chop block has been banned from both the high school and college game,” NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent recently wrote. “We have a generation of players coming to the NFL who never used the chop block, yet they may be expected to initiate this technique that could result in a career-ending injury. We strongly need to consider removing this technique from the game.”
A chop block occurs when two offensive players attempt to impede a defensive player with a high-low technique. One hits the defender above the waist, while the other strikes him in the thigh or lower.
The first reaction by some (like me) may be, “Wait, I thought the chop block already was banned?” It most situations, it is. Rule 12, Section 2, Article 3 identifies three specific circumstances where the chop block is permitted, in running plays only.
First, two players initially aligned next to each other on the line of scrimmage may do it. Second, two players not initially aligned next to each other may do it if the flow of the play is toward the block. Third, two players may do it if one player was initially aligned in the backfield and hits the defender low while another player is blocking the defender high, as long as the action occurs outside the area initially occupied by the tight end on either side of the line.
Cut blocks (i.e., blocks at the thigh or below) have received plenty of criticism in recent years for the risk of knee and other leg injuries they create. At a time when the NFL has obsessed over protecting certain offensive players from potential head injuries, defensive players rightfully have complained that the NFL has no regard for their below-the-waist safety. Eliminating the chop block completely would confirm that the NFL has decided to take the issue seriously absent the same political pressure, liability, and/or threat to the future supply of football players that concussions present.
Some would say the cut block should be completely eliminated from the game. That viewpoint overlooks the reason for its addition to football in the first place. With football players coming in all shapes and sizes based on their vastly different roles and responsibilities, a small player typically can only impede a much larger player by taking him out at the legs.
If the NFL takes out that maneuver entirely, the league may see the current balance between offense and defense slide away from the current preference for the gaining of yards and the scoring of points. To anyone who nevertheless wants to see that happen, maybe the fair tradeoff would be to eliminate the tackling of a ball carrier by diving at his knees.