Polian raises possibility of widening the field

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The NFL’s incessant push for player safety could now push the sidelines farther apart.

And that’s not to simply make it harder for the Joe Flaccos of the world to pull a Tommy Lewis.  Former NFL G.M. Bill Polian tells Dan Pompei that more field space could reduce high-impact hits.

I’m not so sure we shouldn’t think about widening the field,” Polian told Pompei.  “It’s a radical idea, but I think it’s worth thinking about.  You would have more space and perhaps a safer game.  I say that based on my CFL experience.  There are less collisions of that type in the Canadian game.”

The Canadian field is 35 feet wider than the NFL field — but the CFL gridiron is also longer, with deeper end zones.

Texans G.M. Rick Smith disagrees with the concept.  “If you widen the field, you have more high speed collisions,” Smith told Pompei.

Polian disagrees with Smith’s disagreement.  “The farther a player has to run in terms of contact, the less ferocious the contact is going to be,” Polian said.  “We know the most ferocious hits come from guys who are ten yards apart and lay each other out.  You have fewer higher power collisions in the Canadian League than here.”

The idea that distance traveled reduces the impact of the hit depends on how much energy the player still has at the point of impact.  If he’s tired when it’s time to lay the lumber, Polian is right.  But if the player has achieved and maintained full speed and has enough gas in the tank to deliver a full-power hit, putting the players farther apart will result in more, not less, violent collisions.

That’s why the kickoff has been marginalized.  Large, strong men run unimpeded toward each other, achieving full speed.  It’s basic physics.

Of course, a wider field doesn’t necessarily entail the same type of contact, since players won’t be running directly at each other when the movement is more horizontal than vertical.  Spreading the players out will likely result in fewer gang tackles, which is where the biggest safety benefit could be obtained.

Still, the league’s desire to enhance safety is at all times balanced against the fan’s expectation that the game not appear dramatically different when piped through the cable line.  It’s one thing to minimize high-impact helmet-to-helmet hits; it’s quite another to try to minimize all high-impact hits.

Ultimately, the players should have a voice in this.  If the risks they gladly assume to play pro football include operating within a 53-yard window, then why widen the field?

37 responses to “Polian raises possibility of widening the field

  1. Maybe it doesn’t happen as much in the CFL because the players aren’t as fast and strong as the NFL players.

    Want to reduce the speed which players get hit at? Try allowing contact with receivers after 5 yards so no one really gets to full speed.

  2. Given that the 1994 World Cup had problems because the pitches in several of the American Football satdia weren’t wide enough for FIFA rules, it seems unlikely there’d be much room to widen them anyway.

    Ill-conceived clap-trap again…

  3. Would every NFL stadium be able to make their fields bigger? I know some of them are pretty tight with the sidelines.

    Also the CFL has 12 players per side every snap so there are more players on the bigger field.

  4. Lets just get rid of DB’s altogether. CB won’t have the sideline to help. Two safeties can’t cover that much field. “You catch we tackle.” That’s not football. This isn’t about player safety, its about making the game more “exciting” and scoring more points and getting amazing records for ratings and money. Sickening.

  5. why don’t we just get to it and remove the defense…teams can run out there and go through their plays, they will be scored by a panel of referees on the difficult of the play they run and complete….the harder the play the higher the rating from the refs and the further they can advance in yards….

  6. I’m sure Goodell would love this. Yet another advantage for the passing game (more room to work with).

    The reason you don’t see as many punishing hits in the CFL is because quality defenders are fewer. Same thing with college. The few teams that actually recruit a lot of quality defenders tend to hit a lot harder on average.

  7. Widening the field will only result in the next generation of football players being faster and more mobile. Faster objects collide with greater force, no?

    Why not have players fitted with impact sensors (like we use for air bags) and shock collars that zap them every time they run into something at an “unsafe” speed?

    That’s the only thing that I could come up stupider than widening the field…

  8. Look no further than ice hockey. The Olympic sized rink is 15% wider than NHL rinks and big collisions are practically eliminated from the game.

  9. At least the running game would become a factor again!

    The NFL should think of better ideas like eliminating the big bulky shoulder pads or the face masks. Both of which cause defenders to be “braver” with their hits than they should be. You know what sport has less incidences of concussions? Rugby.

  10. Make the football six times bigger also, that way they won’t have to hit as hard to cause fumbles. Then instead of grass replace it with sand so they can’t run as fast. Makes perfect sense.

  11. There are less violent hits in the CFL because there are less violent men in the CFL.

    The Arena League uses an even smaller space than the NFL and also has less violent hits.

  12. What’s with all of these Fired GM’s being so vocal this off season? Polian and Pioli both should take a step back. You guiys were canned cause You Failed. Your opinions don’t carry much weight.

  13. After being fired, I thought he would stop whining and trying to get the rules changed to benefit Peyton Manning.

  14. Perhaps less violent collisions in the CFL is because sure tackling is more important than big hits when the field is enlarged

  15. If you want to change anything?? Fire the lawyer,the owners and players call the Commish!!! He’s killing the NFL.The NFL is a BILLION dollar machine,take care of the players!!! Instead of trying to pocket all the money, without them you dont have your billions..

  16. Want to reduce full speed collisions? Make the defense stay within 10 yards or less of the line of scrimmage at the snap. No big run ups by safeties, and db’s would be moving more back as opposed to straight forward to the offensive players to make hits.

    I’m not saying I like the idea, but it’s better than making the field wider.

  17. Youre completely missing the point. Widening the field wouldnt be to tire players out so their tackles have less impact. With more space it would be more difficult to line players up over the middle.

  18. which pan of water boils faster a small one or a large one? Its the small one because it doesnt take as much energy in a small area. the more energy you get in asmaller area the more violent the reaction.
    If there are the same amount of players on a field that is 35 yards wider there will be far less violent hits, there is more ground to cover for one. the most violent hits do not come from primary defenders they come from a defender coming off their guy and hitting. so if they were more spread around the field they wouldnt be so close and receivers would have more time to protect themselves

  19. Stop trying to fix the game! Think about this dumb idea… Passing records are already dropping like crazy… If you make the field wider defense will cease to exist. Some QB will have a 7000 yard season.

    Here’s a way to fix it without changing the game. Get rid of all the weapon like equipment. You wouldn’t run full speed into someone with your helmet if it was like a hockey helmet.

  20. CFL field wide as said and 110 yards goal-line to goaline. Endzones 20 yards deep. Reason NFL played on smaller fields had to be because the played at stadiums built for baseball. Players are much bigger and faster today, Polian has a point.

  21. This is total BS. Beekeepers get stung. Electricians get shocked. Football players get hit. Get over it NFL.

  22. you guys can thumb this down all you want BUT Polian is on to something here…….and I think Polian is a D Bag

    lets face it and ask yourself why has the NBA lost its luster – that game sucks. Basketball was invented and the rules and regulations laid out for a bunch of under 6ft populace

    the court needs to be bigger and the basket raised at least a foot

    the guys are too big and fast in the NFL these days – we need to spread them out on the edges a bit

    I agree with Polian

  23. Of all the stupid, horrible ideas to “reduce the danger” of the inherently dangerous game of football – i.e. eliminating kickoffs, flagging/fining every hard tackle, leading to the de facto elimination of defense, etc – which ironically propose to save the game of football by destroying the game of football – I’d say that this is the least awful idea I’ve heard. Widening the field would open things up a bit and reduce the numbers of hard hits over the middle (not that I am in favor of this, its f’n football).

    However- when you consider that A) most, if not all, NFL stadiums are built in a configuration that does not allow for a field wider than 40 yards; B) an overwhelming majority of stadiums were built within the last 20 years, with very few new ones being built in the near future; C) the combined upfront and long term costs that owners would incur (or more likely pass along to taxpayers) to retrofit wider stadiums by eliminating big money front-row sideline seats- this idea is a complete nonstarter.

    If anything, the NFL’s safety campaign has been exposed as a way to limit the league’s liability, in other words, protect ownerships financial investments. Does anyone actually believe that they would sacrifice a few hundred thousand dollars to retrofit a stadium and also eliminate a thousand or so front row sideline seats going for $500 a pop? Get real!

  24. The ONLY way to reduce collision injuries is to institute weight limits per position. It’s elementary physics. Since you can’t control how fast a person runs the only thing left to control is how much they weigh.

    It won’t happen, but that would be the only way to reduce it without changing the fundamentals of the game too much.

  25. Florio I brought this up to you about 18 months ago during a call-in portion of your PFT Live show.

    It would be good for player safety and it makes the game more wide open.

    Even if many of us as individuals disagree, you can’t argue the numbers show people by and large prefer that style.

  26. growuppeterpan says:
    Feb 11, 2013 10:09 AM
    Look no further than ice hockey. The Olympic sized rink is 15% wider than NHL rinks and big collisions are practically eliminated from the game.


    That isn’t just based upon the size of the rink. Olympic and European hockey have different rules on how you are allowed to check.

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