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December 24, 2004

Grant McCracken Tackles Football

This is an interesting twist. Apparently the NFL made a rule change in 1995 to make some of the mandatory protective gear that players had to wear optional. This has had some predictable results:

That's funny right there (as John Madden might say). Changing a rule because people are breaking it? Aren't these the ones you're supposed to enforce? Funnier still: this from the NFL, a league normally incapable of administrative flexibility.

Players are now wearing the "bare minimum:" no knee, thigh, kidney, elbow, or forearm pads.

Their motive? Speed, baby, speed. In a brilliant explication, Antuan Edwards, Rams safety, says "The game is so fast, you want to be as light as possible. You feel a difference. At least you want to think you feel a difference."

The game is speeding up. Players are obliged to follow suit, both actually and psychologically.

The amazing thing is that this rule change does not seem to have resulted in more, or more severe, injuries. Or (and perhaps this is the key point) it has done so, but it has not been reported as a result of the rule change. After all, football is already a career with a very short working life (most players are out of the league within a few years of being signed), and injuries are part and parcel of the deal.

I love football (Go Vikings!), but you have to wonder at the way the league balances the risks to their players of rule changes like this: make the game more exciting, but increase the risk of losing your marquee players to injury. In these days of the effective salary cap, most teams are one serious injury away from a losing season.

Posted by Nicholas at December 24, 2004 11:20 AM

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