Friday, October 22, 2010

NFL Hits

The National Football League is cracking down on high speed hits to the head.

They've enacted a rule this year that prohibits the practice of 'launching' - whereby a player, typically defensive, leaves his feet to dive head first into a player running at some degree of opposite angle. And it isn't just helmet to helmet contact - also now illegal is forearm to helmet, and shoulder to helmet delivered via the launch.

I know why defensive backs do these things. They are trying to intimidate receivers coming over the middle. This practice has actually been a response to the tightening of pass defense rules in the NFL over the years. It used to be difficult to cross the middle, because DB's could grab you on your cut, and linebackers always took a shot at you as you went past. Now with the 5 yard contact rule in the NFL, fast wide receivers achieve very high velocities on their pass patterns. Safeties in zone defenses launch themselves at those crossing receivers because trying to wrap up Larry Fitzgerald or Randy Moss at full speed is mostly futile.

The way to protect wide receivers is to slow them down. The way to slow them down is to eliminate the immensely irritating 5-yard contact rule. Slow receivers down, and the inevitable collisions in football will be less violent.

Another idea would be for the NFL to fine players proportionally according to the force of any given collision. Force is changed momentum over time. Momentum is mass multiplied by velocity. So the force of any collision in football has a lot to do with how fast two guys are going, how big they are, and at what angle they collide (head-on shortens the time for the change in momentum, creating more force - oblique angles create 'glancing blows' that are less forceful collisions.) 
  1. Should the NFL compel wide receivers to run routes at certain angles? Do the angles of the routes have any bearing on the increasing or decreasing incidence of injury?
  2. Should the NFL consider whether the wide receiver crossed the field with reckless velocity?
  3. What should the NFL do about receivers that 'launch' themselves to catch a pass? Is that a reckless disregard for defenders?
  4. Maybe the blame for the angle of a given collision that contributes to an excessive force problem should be placed on the coach that drew the route? Or perhaps blame could be placed on the quarterback that threw the poor pass that caused a last-second adjustment and an unfortunate change in angle?
Obviously, they're not going to adopt ANY of those ideas. The owners like passing. But the truth is, if we don't slow receivers down and simply succeed in lowering the target hitting points for defensive backs - which is I think, the goal of the league - we will soon be discovering a rash of different injuries - neck, ribs, knees, etc. - and then the owners will wonder what they ought to do about that.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ambidexterity is Good Thing

Our White team's right-footed punter, seeing the heavy rush from his right, calmly booted the ball left-footed.

I've never seen that before.

Lesson for football coaches: If in doubt about who you should choose to be your punter, a soccer player is not a bad idea.