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Today in sports we see officiating becoming a larger part of the game’s overall outcome. Has this trend been organic? Is it some part of the speed and athleticism requirements? Or maybe just how sports have evolved in general? Look, in today’s modern-day era of billion dollar franchises and billion dollar t.v. contracts, has the money involved required this level of legislation?

The NFL has been the sport affected the most, and for parenthetical reasons. Money, money, money. Oh I’m sorry, did I mention money? Ok, all this great coverage we get on the field has made it impossible for officials to not throw more flags. Yes, the athleticism has evolved so much that it’s natural the officials will be more apt to let the speed aspect influence their calls.

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That’s not why I’m so concerned. In my mind, the NFL has decided to make officiating front and center a focal point of the game. Helmet-to-helmet contact has already had a high-level of interpretation from intentional to incidental. There will now be a 15 yard penalty for lowering head to initiate, and make contact with helmet. I watched a revised rule update video put out by the NFL on what constitutes a foul. The assist tackles in the open field of play are over if one scintilla of the helmet is used; any linear body contact with a helmet is forbidden if deemed unavoidable? This play displayed below is now to be deemed for immediate ejection under the new NFL guidelines?

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dailyherald.com

Ok, are we to expect 2-hand-touch is next? I kid. But in the same breath I’m really worried about the game’s direction. I will say once an offensive player is wrapped up he should be down. No more fighting for yards because, in the scrum of the tackle, any player assisting can make them vulnerable. I have long thought the excessive gladiatorial addition of heavily padded players is unsustainable for the game. You can never manufacture a helmet / battering ram that makes a 260 lb man running into another 200 lb plus man at full speed not be dangerous!

If we watch youth football today you see kids ages 7 and up with limited body control wearing full gear. Why? These young kids have no way of properly supporting a large helmet with underdeveloped neck muscles and no ability to get in a proper tackling position consistently. This in my mind has led to a generation of head hunters, or a lack of fear tackling with your helmet and not the shoulder. New techniques are now being taught in youth football, thankfully. I grew up playing sand-lot and organized football at the same time. Sand-lot was played with same intensity as if I were in pads, and without the helmet I can never recall a head injury even up to high school age with many players over 200 lbs. Last point on the helmet aspect as it pertains to youth: anybody remember Oklahoma drills? Full-on helmet-to-helmet encouraged by coaches and repeated over and over again!

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From middle school football on, I learned or felt that all the marks or colors on my helmet from impact was a badge of honor. Take the helmet out of the weapon business period! Rugby is so popular all over the world, and for that I’m confident less can be more when it comes to pads or protection. Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski and Paddy Driscoll played football with limited gear and were very compelling. Put technology into a rugby scrum style helmet, lessen the shoulder pads, and get back to basics of the game.  Does the NFL have an agenda to control who really is the face of their game? Maybe the NFL really wants players to be hidden by the helmet and face mask?

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All that being said, on this current path we can expect head injuries or players being dinged and flags to be way up! Zachary. M. Seward wrote in 2013, “Football today is 3 hrs and 15 mins with 20 comercial breaks, over 100 adds, 17 mins in replays. The plurality of time (75 minutes) was spent watching players, coaches, and referees essentially loiter on the field. Leaving only 11 mins of actual football as per a Wallstreet Journal study.”  So is the game we all love asending  up or down?

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