Rule Changes in the NFL Today

            The sudden rule changes in the NFL are beginning to get a bit out of hand. The changes are making the players modify their whole style of play, especially the defense. These rules are becoming a major burden for the players, and the fans as well, who also play an important role in the game today, as I will discuss later in my paper. Also the new kickoff rule is a game changing rule that needs to be brought to attention because it’s absurd as well. Records are being shattered because of the new changes, which is taking away excitement from the game and dignity from the players who set them. The new rule changes in the NFL today are beginning to completely change the way the game is viewed by us fans, and played by the players.

“It is now illegal for offensive or defensive players to lower the crown of their helmet outside the tackle box” (Gregg Rosenthal). This gives players a split second decision to decide whether they can tackle someone straight up, or whether they are able to lunge forward with their bodies without being penalized. “We’re professional athletes, so we can adjust, but we grow up understanding instinctively how to play the game of football, and it’s really hard to say, ‘OK, eventually I’m not going to be able to use my head, or wrap with my arms’ or whatever it may be,” (Troy Polamalu). Many defensive players have taken offense to the new tackling rules. “I think the safest thing to do is leave the game alone,” Lewis said. “The game will take care of itself. It always has. Should we be aware of these things? Absolutely. But when you adjust so many [rules], sometimes it makes it worse.” (Ray Lewis). Players can’t just shift their whole style of play because you just ‘throw in’ a new rule.

            Brown 2

Playing the game for years makes it a natural reaction for the body to just lunge and tackle the opposing player with proper tackling technique. Research done by Marcus Du Sautoy (Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford), proves that it takes the body seven seconds to even be aware of the decision that they have made. This is causing the game to be played at a slower pace. All the split second decision making is so enforced, that the players have to now be aware of every little thing they do, or else they are penalized with hefty fines or suspensions. For example, now they have to think how am I going to line this man up, so I will make a good sound tackle, but also do not hit him in a way that he can break off the tackle, or I hit him in a way that’s going to jeopardize my job or a hefty amount of money from my pockets. According to an article by Doug Farrar, in an attempt to save a play, rookie linebacker Jonathan Bostic made an outstanding tackle on a San Diego Chargers receiver and was fined twenty one thousand dollars because of it. For a rookie who’s only making 402k, which is not nearly as much as a veteran, that’s a hefty fine. Reasons like this are reasons the NFL is becoming a slower and less entertaining game today. (Farriar).

              One of the most exciting plays in the NFL today has also been altered because of the implementation of the new rules. Now instead of kicking the ball of from the thirty yard line, the football will now be kicked from the thirty-five yard line These numbers of kick returns have depleted immensely. According to a study done by Paul Carr of ESPN Stats and info 1,374 kickoffs (5.4 per game) were returned in 2011, compared to 2,033 (7.9 per game) in 2010. Kick returns have just been having drastic changes. According to sixteen percent of kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, and later in the 2011 preseason the numbers climbed to about thirty-three percent. Who doesn’t like to see a player return the ball from their own end zone of 100 plus

Brown 3

yards from the opponent’s end zone for a touchdown…?  Just about every fan, if not all of them. Each year starting from 2007 the ball has been started on average close to one’s own end zone. In 2007 on average the ball usually started at about the 28.1 yard-line nearly the 30. In 2008 it was the 27.2 yard line, in 2009 26.4, 2010 it was the 26.8, and 2011 it was the 22.1 (Paul Carr) This shows that’s making it harder on the defense now because you’re not getting the electrifying spark as much anymore from the returners. It’s a rare occasion for the fans to see, and when it happens, it’s always a game changing performance. According to ESPN stats and Information in 2001-2010 85 percent of kickoffs were returned, and in 2011-12 53 percent have been returned because of the new rule. This is basically taking a job away from players. Josh Cribbs and Devin Hester are prime kick returners in the NFL today and their primary role on the team is to return kicks for their team. Implementing this new rule will not only take away the excitement of the game, but jobs of the players, money as well. A goal for 2013 pro bowler Devin Hester is to make it to the pro bowl as a kick returner. When you are added onto the roster in the pro bowl you are given a salary bump. Take that away you are taking away money from the players, who have in every way, shape, or form earned that money. Like Hester said, it is beyond trying to earn a spot itself. Sports Illustrated, Chris Burke) The NFL now is having thoughts of completely abolishing the kickoff. “A team, instead of kicking off, would get the ball at its own 30-yard line in a fourth-and-15 situation. The team then would punt the ball away or, to replace an onside kick, could go for it and, if it failed to get a first down, the opposing squad would start with great field position.” (Greg Schiano) This rule is simply too much. Consider the onside kick, one of the most surprising attacks in a coach’s playbook. Eliminating the kickoff will not only take away from the players who return the ball, but the game changing performance

Brown 4

of recovering an onside kick. Onside kicks can change the whole aspect of the game; it’s treated sort of like a lifeline, or a last hope. This will definitely be a significant change for not only the players but the fans as well.

            Without fans there will be no National Football League. According to Sports Network “They are the lifeblood of professional sports and the only reason why anybody in the industry receives a check. According to a recent A.T. Kearney study today’s global sports industry is worth between €350 billion and €450 billion ($480-$620 billion).” That is with the constant support from their fans. “To cut straight to the chase, lets look at fan contribution versus advertising in regards to revenue. The average ticket price for the 2010 NFL season was $76, with 17 million fans attending that season. That alone amounts to $1.2 billion. Advertising revenue for just the Super Bowl amounted to $793 million. In one night the NFL made 62% of what it makes all season from the fans buying tickets,” (Sports Fans). Without fans the NFL is nothing! If a team is not bringing in a consistent amount of fans then they are losing money and a loss of a large sum of money can lead to the ending of a team, or the NFL as a whole. Fans like to see hard nose, rough, fast pace football being played, but with the new rules being intact it’s starting to change the whole style of play. “The word fan finds originates from the Modern Latin fanaticus, meaning as much as “insanely but divinely inspired”.”  (Sports Network). With the way the rules are being changed today the fans will have no reason to be “insanely or divinely inspired” because they are basically playing flag football. Without fans there will be no momentum. Momentum helps shift the mood of the game. When a team is losing and makes a big play to gain momentum, which is caused by the fans, it helps them get back into the game. With momentum on their side good things are bound to happen because the fans are so loud that

Brown 5

they drown the opposing team out from hearing one another and makes them cause mistakes. They’re treated as the 12th man. “As Mike Perry from Sports Network describes in this post the most passionate fans tend to identify themselves as an integral part of the team they are supporting, with some of them – clearly…” (Sports Network). Fans take so much pride in the game, or team that they include themselves as apart of the team. For example, if a team loses they will say we lost as opposed to saying they lost. Not because they are on the team, but because this is the team that our support is into. These changes are causing a fan decrease. According to NBC Sports In 2011, “the NFL posted the lowest total attendance since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002 with the addition of the Houston Texans”. The NFL commission is worried too much as sports as a business rather than an source of entertainment. “Fans have become in the eyes of the owner’s pieces to a financial puzzle rather than guests to their teams. It is a shame we can not enjoy our games as we used to when we were young, and when the most important principal was playing and playing the best you could,” (Sports Fans). With all the new rules the industry can kiss the fans goodbye. Taking away the big hits, the game changing plays, or the famous kickoff isn’t going to do anything but drive us fans away more and more and this might eventually cause there to be no more National Football League.

            In conclusion, changing the rules of the game is only going to take away money from the players, excitement from the fans, and the love and passion that each and every player has for the game. If a player can’t go out there and do his ‘job’ the way he was taught to do it, then why even want to be apart of something so frustrating and take away the big name players, then the fans have no way of entertaining themselves.



Works Cited

Chun Siong Soon, Marcel Brass, Hans-Jochen Heinze & John-Dylan Haynes, “Unconscious                      Determinants of Free Decisions in the Human Brain.” Nature Neuroscience, April. 13th,   2008.

Rosenthal, Greg. “NFL rule changes cause controversy, draw ire.” Around the League,   20 March. 2013. Web. 6 November 2013.

Farrar, Doug. “Jon Bostic’s fine may exceed what NFL’s collective bargaining agreement             allows.”, Sports Illustrated Audibles, 22 Aug. 2013. Web. 6 November 2013. “New kickoff rules are winning few fans among players, coaches.” News, 15   Aug. 2011. Web. 6 November 2013.

Goldberg, Rob. “NFL News: Proposed Kickoff Change Is Too Radical to Implement.” NFL, 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 6 November 2013.

Chadia, Jeffri. “Should the NFL eliminate kickoffs?.” Hot read, 26 Sept. 2011.       Web. 6 November 2013. news services. “NFL will consider ending kickoffs” ESPN NFL, 6        Dec. 2012. Web. 6 November 2013.

Van Schaik, Thomas. “The Psychology Of Social Sports Fans: What Makes Them So Crazy?”      Sports Network, Web. 8 November 2013.

David Smith, Michael. “Polamalu says players should have a vote in rule changes” NBC Sports,               29 March. 2013. Web. 15 November 2013.

Carr, Paul. “Kickoff rule change has big effect on NFL” ESPN Stats and Info. 3 Jan 2012. Web.             15 November 2013.

David Smith, Michael. “Ray Lewis on NFL’s safety measures: “Leave the game alone”” NBC      Sports, 26 Aug. 2012. Web. 15 Novemeber 2013.

Florio, Mike. “After peaking in 2007, NFL attendance steadily has declined” NBC Sports, 8        July. 2012. Web. 15 November 2013.

Burke, Chris. “Off the Snap: Devin Hester says Pro Bowl rule changes ‘suck’” Sports       Illustrated Audibles. 01 Aug. 2013. Web. November 15 2013.

Maldanado, Jonathan. “Fans Role in Sports Today As Seen by Owners” Sportsfans.Org.  9 Apr   2011. Web. 15 November 2013.