JOBY FAWCETT –Heightened awareness for player safety in football resulted in rule changes and clarifications by the National Federation of State High School Associations at its recent meeting.
There will be a greater emphasis on rules for prohibiting blindside blocking, the elimination of the pop-up kickoff, and protection of defenseless players.
“Everything discussed at the meeting had an emphasis on player safety,” PIAA statewide football rules interpreter Paul Sheehan said. “Kids are getting hurt, and we want to protect the players.”
The NFHS defined blindside blocking as “a block against an opponent other than the runner, who does not see the blocker approaching,” according to a press release. Committing the foul will result in a 15-yard penalty.
It states the blindside block “involves contact by a blocker against an opponent who, because of physical positioning and focus of concentration, is vulnerable to injury. Unless initiated with open hands, it is a foul for excessive and unnecessary contact when the block is forceful and outside of the free-blocking zone,” according to the press release.
“We are meeting and we are going to have mandatory meetings with officials, coaches and athletic directors to go over this rule,” Sheehan said.
The committee also defined and eliminated the pop-up kickoff, commonly used on onside kicks where the kicker drives the ball into the ground to loft it into the air, giving the kicking team a chance to recover.
“A free kick in which the kicker drives the ball immediately to the ground, the ball strikes the ground once and goes into the air in the manner of a ball kicked directly off the tee,” is how the NFHS defined the pop-up kick in the release.
Let the BIG DOG speak! Here’s Mando’s take on the new rule changes:
From the opinion of someone who has played football their whole life, first as an all state linebacker at Old Forge High School – “Linebacker High” – and currently at King’s College, the recent NFHS rule changes have set off a fuse inside me. The NFHS has recently made rule changes that now would make a “blindside block” (see examples of beautiful plays below) a personal foul resulting in a 15 yard penalty.
Also they have outlawed the “pop-up” kickoff, in other words: an onside kick style that you see many of professional teams use.
Over the past several years the NFL, along with the NCAA and high school football organizations have been emphasizing player safety in the form of trying to eliminate injuries in football by creating excessive rules that are supposed to “protect” players. For example, there’s been a penalty put in place called “targeting” that IMMEDIATELY ejects the player from the game for a hit above the shoulders. Now I understand the scares of repeated head trauma causing health problems in life after football and I’m not being ignorant to the clear evidence of living(and dead) examples of health problems directly from football. Here’s the thing, when you decide to play the game of football, THIS IS WHAT YOU SIGN UP FOR. Not the health problems, but all the contact, the blindside blocks that make a stadium resonate in unison “OOOUU”, the hit sticks that electrify the crowd, the trucks the pound into the end zone for a score and so on. With everything in life comes a risk and with football, injury is the risk. If you can’t take the heat get out the kitchen!
When I think of what football is, there’s one thing that echoes in my mind: the voice of 2013 Class A Defensive Player of the Year Shane Schuback yelling out “IT’S A MAN’S GAME” during 2-a-days my sophmore year of high school. The game of football is what it is because of the physical nature of the game. All these rules take away from the history of the game and push towards extinction of what the game first started off as.
When you strap up that helmet and step foot on that field you better have your head on a swivel, for if there’s 1 thing I’ve ever learned about the game of football, HIT or BE HIT.