Heading into the 2013 National Football League season, team owners and league administrators wanted to cut down on head injuries. The answer? Tighten the rules on hits above the chest.
The result? More hits below the waist and a bushel full of torn ACLs. A couple of key players blow out their knees, and the league’s collective eyebrows furrow. When New England’s Rob Gronkowski has his knee shredded, in a vicious hit from Browns safety T.J. Ward, heads turn.
Since the new rule that levies harsh fines on players for hitting high, NFL defenders are admittedly aiming for the legs, ending many receivers’ seasons and threatening the careers of others; this is the second major injury in as many years for Gronkowski, the supremely talented Patriots tight end.
There is little doubt that the NFL’s competition committee will have a bevy of intense debates about this latest rash of serious injuries, due to devastating hits on defenseless players. If you can’t hit high and you can’t hit low, what’s left?
Is it time for the NFL to create a hitting zone on all players? I’m envisioning new uniforms with big — or not so big — target, centered between the navel and neck.
When Calvin Johnson takes a helmet to the stomach, cracking a rib, what happens to the target then?
Does it become a flag?
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