Competition Committee explores banning chop block

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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.

20 responses to “Competition Committee explores banning chop block

  1. This is similar to the argument raised when defenders ask how they can tackle someone like Gronkowski without causing a season ending knee injury. The solution isn’t easy, but it’s tackling the thighs/waist and not going, Bernard Pollard-style, at the knees with the head or shoulders.

    It’s part of the evolution of the game and rules that change every season, from high school to the NFL, and if players entering the NFL now know how to tackle without making a chop block, it’s just a case of teaching those techniques to existing players. There will inevitably be flags for chop blocks but, in a few seasons, they will be few and far between. If that means fewer players going under the knife with torn ACLs, that’s for the good of the game.

  2. If they eliminate ‘cut’ blocks, the idea of a RB staying in on Pass Pro will disappear. The only chance a RB has to slow down or stop a 320lb DT is to cut block.

  3. However, the NFL may want to emulate College which has eliminated ‘cut’ blocks more than 3 yds from the LOS.

  4. About time the defense received a rule in their favor. Chop blocks are dangerous, and this is finally a rule helping players safety.

  5. At some point they will explore all players standing still while the field vibrates like that cheesy 70’s game.

    Cut blocks can be dangerous but so are those “tackles” where the defensive player launches his nameplate towards the runners knees to knock him down like a bowling pin. There is often no attempt at wrapping up or holding on to the ball carrier.

  6. If not for being able to tackle by diving at the knees, DBs would NEVER be able to bring down Gronkowski. They’d actually have to learn how to tackle. TJ Ward…this means YOU!

  7. As fans we never want to see stars injured. However we also Dont want our beloved game to devolve into something which is not football.

    Football is a dangerous sport. bad things happen.

    We need less lawyers in football and more common sense.

  8. How about looking at taking out the blindside hits, its a joke that they are so concerned with concussions but guys are absolutely getting smoked for no reason, its one thing if they are about to make a tackle, but if they aren’t involved in the play how is it any different than hitting a defenseless receiver…

  9. “Great, now how am I supposed to block anybody? C’mon guys, blown out knees are just part of the game. Derp.”

    – Julius Thomas, Broncos TE

  10. These types of blocks are primarily used in the run game–which the NFL is trying to phase out and devalue. Just another step in the direction of flag football. Bravo Goodell…Bravo Competition Committee!

  11. Of course… we all know… the nfl will not outlaw cut blocking until after nfl dream princess tom brady retires.

  12. Dccowboys, I believe you are confusing college and high school.
    Cut blocks down field are still allowed in college football.

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