The annual league meetings are taking place this week in Phoenix, AZ where all of the NFL owners and coaches come together to propose, discuss, debate and vote on whether the competition committe should ratify or add to the rule book for the betterment of the game itself and the players who make up the league.
The NFL has been transitioning from trench warfare to a pass-happy league and it seems like every offseason the top minds in the league come together to create and modify rules to focus on increasing player safety. However, they also to help create more scoring by these high-flying offenses that are coming out of the woodwork that allows offensive skill players more protection in the pocket and free releases of the line of scrimmage in some instances by eliminating contact past five yards.
For what seems like the first time in forever they have voted to remove a part of the game that has been a staple in some of the most vicious plays in the most violent game of all the major professional sports. They have voted to outlaw blindside blocks and if a player delivers that type of hit, they will be assessed with a penalty starting in 2019 season.
The reason that this rule could be perceived as beneficial for players on the defensive side of the ball is because this particular type of block is most used by players on offense and special teams return units. Some of the most bone-crushing plays that occur in football at every level that incites the “OOOO’s!!!” and makes some spectators cringe are the ferocious hits that the players on those units deliver to unsuspecting defenders who are focusing on trying to make a play or tackle on the ball or ball carrier and don’t see blow coming.
This block often springs the ball carrier for a huge gain, a touchdown or maybe even the late bit of yardage they need to pick up a first down and move the chains while leaving the player on the receiving end of play writhing pain, momentarily disorientated and debilitated or in some extreme cases knocked completely unconscious.
The most notable blindside block that could be viewed as the poster child play for the reason for this rule is blindside block that Dallas Cowboys’ safety Jeff Heath delivered on former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette on a punt return during the 2015 season that knocked him out of the game and ultimately ended his career.
He was one widely recognized as special teams ace and one of the best gunners in the league on every coverage and return unit who had a reputation that for delivering hard hits of his own when he was on the field.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Heinz Ward made a name for himself in the heyday of the team’s rivalry with their AFC North division rival in the Baltimore Ravens by delivering some of the most devastating blindside blocks of his era on the likes of Hall of Fame defenders such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
In a video that was posted on the official twitter account of the NFL Football Operations staff they stated, “A blindside block is a foul if a player initiates a block in which he is moving forward or parallel to his own end line and makes forcible contact to his opponent with his helmet, forearm or shoulder.”
There have been plenty of defensive players both past and present that have come out publicly with their displeasure and disgust with the way in which the game of football at the NFL level is moving towards. Lewis, who was one of the hardest hitting players in NFL history and New York Jets Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, who is one of the most physical players in the game today with his throwback style of play, have been two of the most outspoken against the new rules that the league’s owners roll out every year that promotes more offense and less defense.
However, the primary beneficiaries of this new rule will be the players on their side of the ball and their long-term health as well as safety while they’re on the field. Although the new instant replay rule that pertains to offensive and defensive pass interference plays that are called and not call has been dominating the headlines coming out of these meeting, the blindside block rule could prove to be the most impactful on the players who play the game more so than results of an individual game.