NFL Changes Rules for Safety

In a pro-active and ground-shaking response to the ever-growing trend of criticism of safety concerns in the National Football League, Commissioner Roger Goodell today issued a press release detailing sweeping reforms to the game.

The press release is presented here in its entirety.

“The National Football League Commission and team owners regard the physical short term and long term health of its 1,800 active players as paramount. We began radically improving safety in the early 1970s with major advancements to the helmet, and steadily continued on that path by instituting new and better rules, especially in the area of tackling. Injuries continue to fall as a result of our ongoing efforts.

“However, the NFL recognizes it must do more. We have listened not only to our own hearts, but also to the increasingly frequent unbiased criticisms and suggestions from sports commentators, OSHA, Congressional oversight committees, the players lobby, lawyers representing injured players, doctors and especially women’s and other social justice warrior organizations (the lattermost being concerned with possible romanticizing of brutal physical aggression).

“As a result of many hours of discussion, the owners have unanimously agreed to begin making dramatic changes in the game. The changes will begin in the 2017 regular season. They will be fully instituted over the following six years. All changes are for the safety of our players, but of course many of these changes offer incident benefits that resonate with the reigning right-thinking political culture of today.

“We begin with player age caps and average ages. Knowing that the likelihood of injury increases with the age of the player, no player over the age of 28 will be eligible to play. We will achieve this goal gradually over the next four years, and can expect a 17% drop in overall injuries. While this will result in the early retirement of several popular and successful players, especially quarterbacks, it also provides for more newer faces in a team’s annual roster, and that’s a good thing. It keeps the game fresh.

“The current average age of NFL players is 25.2 years. That will change. In four years, the maximum average age of any team shall not exceed 24.4 years, resulting in an 11% decrease in injuries.

“We are also reducing the number of games played. Pre-season games will be reduced from four to two. Regular season games will be reduced from 16 to 14. By reducing the overall number of games — excluding postseason games — from 20 to 16 should produce at least a 20% reduction in injuries. Keep in mind that a higher percentage of injuries occur in preseason and late season games.

“Presently, a game is 60 minutes long. This will be reduced immediately by 10%, or 6 minutes, to 54 minutes and is likely to yield a 10% reduction in injuries. In four years the game time will be down to 48 minutes. We note that there are 18% more injuries in the final 12 minutes of a game than in any other 12-minute segment.

“And now we address the single biggest underlying cause of player injury: Body mass. It is simple bio-physics that larger masses carry more energy and inflict more injury than do smaller masses. Further, the body mass of the injured player is not a significant fact; bigger players are hurt just as readily as are smaller players.

“The average weight of today’s NFL player is 253.2 pounds. The weight for linemen runs around 300 pounds. Keep in mind that the average weight of a 25-year-old American male is 187 pounds, and his average height is 5 feet and 11 inches.

“Over the course of the next six years, we will reduce a team’s maximum average player weight to 195 pounds. The maximum weight of any single player shall not exceed 205 pounds. 

“The average height of a 25 year old male is 5 feet 11 inches. The NFL will not require an average team height until further studies indicate a need to do so. We will, however, put an individual maximum cap of 6 feet two inches on all players.

“We note that this year’s Super Bowl champs, the Denver Broncos, were the lightest team in the league at 245 pounds per player. The runner up Carolina Panthers were only a pound heavier. This proves that lighter is better. Teams shouldn’t want bigger players. Fans want winners, and winners are lighter. So, fans don’t want big players.

“Statistics suggest a 37% decrease in injuries as a result of the changes in height and weight requirements. We especially expect to see a dramatic decrease in chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

“Of course there will be equipment changes. Beginning in 2017, padding will increase 50%. That figure may increase depending on the results. A benefit of the increased padding is that the average 195 pound player will appear to spectators in the stands and on television to be the same size as a 300 pound player. From the fans’ viewpoint, the game won’t appear to have changed at all.

“There will be far, far fewer injuries. In fact, in six years our goal is to see professional football suffer fewer per capita injuries than the average professional beach volleyball player. We’ll set standards of safety that will be used by volleyball, golf, bowling and curling professionals. Someday, let us hope, no one will ever be hurt by anything anywhere, ever.

“Traditionalists will knee-jerk criticize these changes. That is to be expected. But they’ll soon realize the game is more fun to watch and more competitive between teams equalized by weight and height. Foremost, the reduction in player size approaching the national average will open the sport to millions of players who, through genetics and no fault of their own, have not been able to compete with the genetically privileged larger players. We expect player quality to increase to new levels. Fans who appreciate athleticism will be thankful the NFL is making these changes. And, fans can more easily imagine themselves as players. The new NFL player will no longer be a genetic, overdeveloped monster, but a regular guy. Your average geek software developer will have a shot at playing pro football.

“But the NFL is never satisfied in its quest for safety and social fairness and equality. It’s not enough that we open the game to the average male. We want to open it up women, too. This is a difficult and uncharted path, of course, and while the NFL will work diligently, it may take some time. But we begin by requiring all teams to sign at least one female as a kicker. Teams will further be required to use female kickers for all extra point kicks, and at the minimum!, to successively alternate the female and male kickers for kick offs, punts, and field goals. We think this will bring in many more fans to the games.

“Remember that all changes are based on statistics and bio-mechanical physics.

“The face of the game will change, but the game remains the same.”

(Happy Jack Feder is a writer and filmmaker living in Helena, Montana.)

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