How low can you go? Penalizing hits below the knee

Cuzittt

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Launching is one of the issues. The bigger issue I had is that it really wasn't a tackle... it was a rolling block. There was no attempt to put hands/arms around Gronk... the defender just threw his body in front.

Because of the danger for both parties... that type of "tackle" should not be allowed.
 

mauf

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I couldn't agree more. The knee is the new head. Nostalgia aside, rules must keep up with increased speed, strength, and vicious targeting.
Nobody who watched Joe Namath hobbling around with braces like FDR--while still playing--questions protecting the knees of the QB.
Maybe "launching upward" was poorly writen--not imagining launching down--and is it really down if you're launching off the ground?
But CSN said tonite that blown out knees in the NFL are up this season from 25 to 43 and counting--roughly doubling.
Does anyone think this is sustainable? 50...100 RB's and WR's with blown out knees each year? C'mon.
The old rules were perfectly adequate for games like the Eagles/Lions--slogging in mud and snow--now the Lions slog to their dome and launch 200 lb DB's protected by hi-tech helmets at your knees at 4.4 speed. Different game. Different rules.


Catching the ball in the middle of the field has been dangerous since forever. The only way to change that is to outlaw defense as we know it -- hell, just placing the head off-limits (which was absolutely necessary) profoundly changed the game.
 

SoxFan58

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I do like the using of the Cobb and Keller injuries as a platform to show how unbiased these posters are advocating for such extreme rule changes. In week 15.

I also think there's a fundamental difference in tearing an ACL vs experiencing repeated concussions - the quote about parents being concerned about torn ACLs following suit from concussions seems disingenuous to me.

How do people propose defenses tackle receivers at this point? I have no interest in watching 49-42 games every week. Can't you just chalk it up to bad luck and a random play?
 

OCST

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If you can't hit the head (and I agree you shouldn't be able to), and you can't hit low, or you have to obey all kinds of hyper-technical rules to hit low, which are impossible to observe in the heat of the game, and even more difficult to call properly - then it's not football anymore.  Take the pads away and play rugby.
 
Football is guys hitting guys.  The fact that a big Patriots star got a serious injury this time is causing people to freak out, but this happens in virtually every game.  If it was some special teams gunner for the Jags no one would give a shit, but I'm sure a bunch of anonymous guys like that have been hurt as badly or worse recently.
 
We may just be getting to a point where advances in nutrition and training and the increased size and speed of players are just making the game too fucking dangerous to be played without substantial risk of crippling injury.  As I have posted before, I believe that someday, someone is going to get killed in an NFL game, and that's going to have a chilling effect on fans, TV networks, and advertisers.  I just don't think anything can be done about it.  It's like trying to take the punching out of boxing.  No hitting, no football.
 

DJnVa

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JimBoSox9 said:
Hear hear. It's kind of boggling my mind that so many people seem to take the premise for granted that a form tackle from a smaller player can't derail the mighty Gronk.
 
FWIW, both Mike Golic and Cris Carter this morning argued this very thing. Because the DB is 200 lbs, and Gronk 260, that there's really nothing else they can do.
 

MalzoneExpress

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Remember crack-back blocks? I do. Those were outlawed because of all the knee injuries. 
 
Remember blocking below the waist on returns? I do. Those were outlawed because of all the knee injuries.
 
Launching at the knees types of tackles will eventually be outlawed as well because of all the knee injuries. It is only a matter of time. 
 

PaulinMyrBch

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Once again, we are talking about tackling defenseless receivers, lets not blur the line on general tackling rules where its perfectly legal to go helmet to helmet or low on a running back or a wide receiver that is no longer defenseless.
 
One thing that I thought about last night that is proving interesting on just a bit of digging this morning is this:
 
Defensive players rarely launch themselves at RB's or WR's that are running in the open field (not defenseless).  They often go low, but if you see the relevant highlights in these vids, that's not always successful due to the fact that a ball carrier in the open field has a chance to make a move and avoid a low hit. The most popular method of tackling an open field runner isn't a head shot or a knee shot, its a midsection hit with an arm wrap.  Your basic fucking tackle.  These guys only want to launch at heads or knees when the ball carrier is defenseless or engaged with another tackler where he can't move.  The reason for that seems simple, a launch isn't a good way to tackle if the offensive player has a chance to see you coming. So basically they seem to want to tee off on guys that can't defend themselves, but when the offensive player has a chance to avoid the tackle, they play it safe and go for the midsection and wrap up and try to drag down.
 
 I know these vids aren't dispositive on the issue, but I find it interesting. Shady McCoy and Gronk highlights and what defenders do to get them to the ground when they aren't defenseless.  (You have to watch a bunch of highlights where they don't get tackled here, but youtube doesn't have a catagory titled "Gronk highlights - no TD's")
 
One other point, there is a hit in the vid on Gronk very similar to the Ward hit, but Gronk has time to see it coming and react and it does not result in a blown out knee.  I feel the reason for that is Gronk makes a slight avoidance step and lessens the blow.
 
http://youtu.be/MLOUv93ghU0
http://youtu.be/RjVIKeuRuZA
 

BigJimEd

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Not completely germane to the main topic but he "fundamental" tackle with wrapping up may be a thing of the past as more and more youth and High School programs follow the "heads up" program which teaches players not to wrap up.
 

rbeaud

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BigJimEd said:
Not completely germane to the main topic but he "fundamental" tackle with wrapping up may be a thing of the past as more and more youth and High School programs follow the "heads up" program which teaches players not to wrap up.
It's not clear to me why heads up and wrapping are mutually exclusive. Am I missing something?
 

MalzoneExpress

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BigJimEd said:
Not completely germane to the main topic but he "fundamental" tackle with wrapping up may be a thing of the past as more and more youth and High School programs follow the "heads up" program which teaches players not to wrap up.
 
 
rbeaud said:
It's not clear to me why heads up and wrapping are mutually exclusive. Am I missing something?
 
Heads up teaches a double uppercut finish rather than a wrap and tackle finish. http://usafootball.com/health-safety/how-to-tackle
 

Jimy Hendrix

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DrewDawg said:
 
FWIW, both Mike Golic and Cris Carter this morning argued this very thing. Because the DB is 200 lbs, and Gronk 260, that there's really nothing else they can do.
 
I get that this is the situation in that moment with these two players, but as a general justification it seems weird to me.
 
If the only way a little guy can tackle a big freak athlete in the backfield is to launch at their knees, it doesn't follow to me necessarily that it should be legal for them to do so. Perhaps it just means that teams need to get bigger and freakier in the secondary.
 
Also, on a separate subject, it really feels like the stuff that has made football more awesome to watch recently (close-up mics, HD) are making these injuries way more awful to experience as a fan. It's super fun to hear Brady calling out the mike, but much less so to hear a Gronkowski or a Vollmer screaming in agony when their legs get fucked up.
 

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Not to take this off on a completely different tangent, but if they do decide to outlaw hits below the knee (and I'm slowly coming around to it, based on the arguments here), they need to do it with blocking as well.  They have legislated some of it out of the game on special teams, but the cut blocks need to go too.  Be consistent.  Because linemen are players too.
 

DJnVa

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Jimy Hendrix said:
 
I get that this is the situation in that moment with these two players, but as a general justification it seems weird to me.
 
If the only way a little guy can tackle a big freak athlete in the backfield is to launch at their knees, it doesn't follow to me necessarily that it should be legal for them to do so. Perhaps it just means that teams need to get bigger and freakier in the secondary.
 
Also, on a separate subject, it really feels like the stuff that has made football more awesome to watch recently (close-up mics, HD) are making these injuries way more awful to experience as a fan. It's super fun to hear Brady calling out the mike, but much less so to hear a Gronkowski or a Vollmer screaming in agony when their legs get fucked up.
 
Yep.
 
The fact that Gronk is a freak of nature shouldn't give other players a license to launch at his knees because they can't tackle him.
 

sodenj5

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DrewDawg said:
 
Yep.
 
The fact that Gronk is a freak of nature shouldn't give other players a license to launch at his knees because they can't tackle him.
He didn't "launch at his knee." You guys are acting like TJ Ward specifically went for his knees. He went low, and it just so happened that at full speed, the timing worked out really poorly for Gronk.
 

PaulinMyrBch

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If he hits him in the midsection, all three go down, all three get up.  Ward easily saw that 52 was in on any tackle he attempts to make.
 
Legal - yes
The only way to bring him to the ground within the rules - no.
 
 

wibi

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If he hits him in the midsection, all three go down, all three get up.
 
Legal - yes
The only way to bring him to the ground within the rules - no.
 



And a quarter of a second earlier or later and Gronk gets up fine
 

PaulinMyrBch

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I've got to question you on that.  I understand what you're trying to point out, bad timing.  But a bit later and his foot is firmly on the ground, more weight on that leg, and the damage is likely greater.  As it stands Gronk's foot moved pretty good with the hit and he still suffered the injury.  
 
I don't understand what you're saying about it being earlier.  A quarter second earlier and what exactly?  The only thing preventing the injury with the way Ward attacked is a whiff by Ward, and that didn't happen.  
 
My post is really to point out the contrast with his explanation.... that the rules force him to go low as the only way to bring the player down.  Which is obviously deep fried bullshit based on that photo.
 

mulluysavage

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Maybe the counter- move to stronger language on low hits to a defenseless receiver is to ease up on the PI rules - allow more contact and/or a less severe penalty. Perhaps that could keep the game from being a defense-depleted track meet and help players stay healthy.

To those who say its a violent game and accept it: I'm getting more and more disgusted by the game itself when dudes get their bodies wrecked within the rules. I'm glad the NFL did something about concussions, which have a different level of impact - mental health, neurological. Knee injuries are different but I still think its gross that players know they are going to hurt people given the rules like Ward did. It can be outlawed without destroying football, like other posters said.

I liked It when Blount grabbed someone's face mask and stood up for himself after a late hit in Browns game.

It's interesting to watch Edelman go over the middle and give himself up before getting jacked. A lot of guys do it but he seems really good at it.
 

lambeau

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Troy Brown has weighed in on CSN: "Something has to be done. Gronk was defenseless;he's lucky his foot wasn't fully planted--it could have been worse."
 

sodenj5

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lambeau said:
Troy Brown has weighed in on CSN: "Something has to be done. Gronk was defenseless;he's lucky his foot wasn't fully planted--it could have been worse."
Gronk caught the ball, turned his body and head and took nearly three complete strides. He wasn't defenseless.
 

Toe Nash

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Yeah I don't think he's defenseless unless you change that rule too. He lunged to make the catch which I think prevented him from avoiding the hit but he definitely took two strides.
 
No one has bothered to find any data on whether knee injuries from these kinds of hits are actually up, either (of course, nor did I, but hey, I'm arguing the status quo ;) ). 
 
I don't mind the suggestion to change the PI / illegal contact rules or start calling them to favor offense if you legislate out low hits. But I think they suck anyway. The fact remains that this thread wouldn't have happened if it was Cameron getting injured by McCourty and that makes it hard to take most of these arguments seriously without more than the anecdotes and conjecture posted thus far.
 
Drastic rule changes are warranted w/r/t the head because these retired players are vegetables and that's scary. Also because we still don't know everything about CTE and concussions so it's best to err on the side of caution even if the game is less fun to Joe Couchpotato. But Tom Brady is pretty much the same guy now as he was before his knee injury and he knew the risks of that injury when he took every snap he's taken. We know how to treat it and the worst thing that can happen is that someone will botch the surgery and Gronk won't be able to play again. But he'll still be able to go to clubs, have a family and be a normal guy (scary thought, I know).
 

IdiotKicker

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If your objective is to reduce knee injuries, penalizing hits to the knee with penalties/fines the easiest way to do it.  There's no debate about that.
 
The question then becomes, "What does that do to the game?"
 
The answer is that it changes very little.  Seriously, I've thought about this for the last 30 minutes.  I keep thinking there's something I'm missing.  There's no reason to allow it.  Any hit that can be made by a defender launching into a knee can just as easily be made by him launching into the waist or chest.  Yeah, maybe it doesn't completely take him down because he actually now has functioning knee ligaments, but if you can't tackle a player by going for his waist or chest, you really shouldn't be in the NFL.  Enough about how a 200lb guy can't bring down someone weighing 260lbs.  You want to avoid that problem?  Have better ball skills so you don't get beat so often or get bigger DBs.
 
I'm not talking about plays from behind where a guy grabs a shoelace or anything like that, those tackles won't change and aren't particularly dangerous.  But in any case where a player is launching into another guy's knee from the front or the side is easily preventable by simply not allowing them to do that.  If you are lowering your head to the knee level, you are actually taking a longer route to make the tackle anyway.  
 
If you want to balance the rules in favor of the defense, allow a little more clutching and grabbing by defenders and you're all set.  Change something else if you want.  But it won't be hard to rebalance things, and to be honest, the number of tackles that come low on a weekly basis isn't a huge number anyways.  This should be an easy, easy decision for the NFL.
 

DJnVa

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sodenj5 said:
He didn't "launch at his knee." You guys are acting like TJ Ward specifically went for his knees. He went low, and it just so happened that at full speed, the timing worked out really poorly for Gronk.
 
Forgive the hyperbole, but you know what I meant.
 

tims4wins

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@ Toe Nash - I'm on mobile right now but there was a Grantland article today about the rise of knee injuries - I think it included some data from the NFL

Edit: as of Oct 23 - more than 6 weeks ago - 30 NFL players had been placed on IR this year due to a torn ACL. The full year number last year was 32, and it was 25 in 2011. That is a disturbing trend.
 

sodenj5

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Chuck Z said:
Enough about how a 200lb guy can't bring down someone weighing 260lbs.  You want to avoid that problem?  Have better ball skills so you don't get beat so often or get bigger DBs.
 
Have better ball skills? The LB had coverage. Ward, the safety, was doing exactly what he's supposed to do in that situation. Get bigger DB's? A 260 pound DB is called a linebacker.

Yeah, maybe it doesn't completely take him down because he actually now has functioning knee ligaments
It probably doesn't take him down because that's how physics work. Hitting him in the center of his mass makes it much more difficult to bring him to the ground than hitting him either up high or down low. It has nothing to do with ligaments.
 

OCST

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Look, guys.  The game threads, and substantive threads, are full every week with people pissing and moaning - justifiably - about how terrible the "judgment calls" are, how arbitrary the calls are, especially certain calls like PI and holding - and now people want another set of judgment calls about whether or not a guy was "launching at the knees" or whatever?  You want more of this kind of thing?
 
Look at 49ers-Saints a few weeks ago - the roughing the passer call against Brooks when he got Brees in the neck.  People in here were hopping up and down that the call cost the Niners the game, that it was a terrible call, etc. etc.  It looked like Brooks pretty much clotheslined Brees to me and I didn't have a problem with the call.  But the point is that people were livid about the call, it was a travesty, and all that - but people are looking to add more of the same kind of judgment call here.
 
Do you really think that a set of rules that is so exquisitely calibrated as to try to protect a "defenseless" receiver, or to prevent "launching" at the "knee," is A) playable by the players, and B) enforceable by the refs?  A set of rules that makes the same hit legal if it comes a split second earlier or later, or an inch higher or lower?  I don't.
 
Gronk got hit and hurt.  It sucks.  I don't see how you change it.
 
 
To those who say its a violent game and accept it: I'm getting more and more disgusted by the game itself when dudes get their bodies wrecked within the rules.
 
I agree and it's interfering with my enjoyment of the game but I don't think the rule changes being proposed here are going to help.  Existing rules to protect the passer, protect the head, etc. are already viewed by the players as impossible to follow and by the fans as enforced arbitrarily, so going further down that road is just going to frustrate everybody.
 

PaulinMyrBch

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Well that argument should stop the competition committee in their tracks, can't have the message board folks upset, especially when they're typing fast trying to one up some people they've never met.

But in all seriousness. Yes I think a rule can be crafted that will protect defenseless receivers knees. No I don't believe the DJ's (Swearinger or Ward) that it's impossible to hit and tackle a guy within the current or possible rules variations. Yes I think Ward and 52 very easily bring Gronk to the ground Sunday without blowing out his knees.

And with the current rule I've never once thought after a play, you know if he could have jacked him in the head there, we would have saved a few yards.

I think some change may be coming this off-season. We shall see.
 

SeoulSoxFan

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PaulinMyrBch said:
Well that argument should stop the competition committee in their tracks, can't have the message board folks upset, especially when they're typing fast trying to one up some people they've never met.

But in all seriousness. Yes I think a rule can be crafted that will protect defenseless receivers knees. No I don't believe the DJ's (Swearinger or Ward) that it's impossible to hit and tackle a guy within the current or possible rules variations. Yes I think Ward and 52 very easily bring Gronk to the ground Sunday without blowing out his knees.

And with the current rule I've never once thought after a play, you know if he could have jacked him in the head there, we would have saved a few yards.

I think some change may be coming this off-season. We shall see.
 
Agree. Also to keep in mind: these rules are coming fast and furious for head coaches and players to adjust each year. In fact, BB mentioned how the beginning of the camp is focused on how the entire team deals with the rules chances. 
 
I think that means the part-timers, aka NFL refs, need even more time to understand the rules and more importantly how to leveraging them during play. 
 
Which begs the question, why are NFL refs still part-timers, in a multi-billion dollar industry?
 

IdiotKicker

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sodenj5 said:
Have better ball skills? The LB had coverage. Ward, the safety, was doing exactly what he's supposed to do in that situation. Get bigger DB's? A 260 pound DB is called a linebacker.
 
You're missing my point.  People are making excuses in this thread saying that a 200 pound guy can't possibly take down a 260 pound guy without going low or high.  And you know what, it may even be true with Gronk.  But the solution is not to allow a dangerous tackle just because there's no other way to bring the guy down.  My point was that if the guy is that good, find a way to adapt your defense without having to resort to a style of play that is incredibly dangerous.
 
 
 
It probably doesn't take him down because that's how physics work. Hitting him in the center of his mass makes it much more difficult to bring him to the ground than hitting him either up high or down low. It has nothing to do with ligaments.
 
Getting back to your first point, you are exactly right in that the LB did have coverage.  And you're exactly right in that Ward was coming over exactly as he was supposed to.  So my question to you is very simple.  Would preventing Ward from going low have changed the result of that play in any way other than Gronk not getting hurt?  Two NFL defenders, especially going after a guy that most people are trying to claim was defenseless, should have no trouble making that play without having to go either low or high.
 
I don't know why people want to defend the right of players to go low.  It simply doesn't make sense to me.  And this isn't just because of the Gronk injury.  That obviously brought it to my attention, but the fact of the matter is that players going low to tackle isn't what makes me tune in to watch football.  No one says to their friends, "I can't wait to see Meriweather blow up some dude's knee this weekend."  We're talking about removing one of the most dangerous plays in football, with the side effect that offenses may pick up a few more YAC and defenders will have to learn how to tackle properly.  Can someone concretely tell me what downside there is to doing this?  
 
I get that it will be an adjustment for players and refs.  But just because something is an adjustment and may have problems at first doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.  You gradually tweak it until you have a solution that actually works and accomplishes what you want it to do.  Burying your head in the sand and saying, "This is how we've always done it, it's a man's game," doesn't do anything.  Specifically, as we've seen with the rise of knee injuries in the last two years, this clearly is not how football has always done it.  Defenders have made the adjustment to going low because they can't go high, and if prevented from going low, they will adjust again.  I'll end again by asking, what is the actual downside to the game of football, both from a viewing experience and playing experience, that banning low hits will produce?
 

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Chuck Z said:
 
You're missing my point.  People are making excuses in this thread saying that a 200 pound guy can't possibly take down a 260 pound guy without going low or high.  And you know what, it may even be true with Gronk.  But the solution is not to allow a dangerous tackle just because there's no other way to bring the guy down.  My point was that if the guy is that good, find a way to adapt your defense without having to resort to a style of play that is incredibly dangerous.
 
 
Getting back to your first point, you are exactly right in that the LB did have coverage.  And you're exactly right in that Ward was coming over exactly as he was supposed to.  So my question to you is very simple.  Would preventing Ward from going low have changed the result of that play in any way other than Gronk not getting hurt?  Two NFL defenders, especially going after a guy that most people are trying to claim was defenseless, should have no trouble making that play without having to go either low or high.
 
I don't know why people want to defend the right of players to go low.  It simply doesn't make sense to me.
It's very simple. The game is already incredibly offensively biased. There used to be more contact allowed while defending. The NFL changed the rules to open up the offense. Scoring and ratings went through the roof. That's why the league is now a "passing league." Because all of the rules are skewed to allow the passing game to thrive and to protect quarterbacks and receivers. That's not debatable, it's a fact.

The way the game is presently constituted, defenders almost literally have their hands tied behind their backs. Couple that with the fact that the NFL has recently cracked down on going high, and they have very limited resources at their disposal to actually defend an athletic freak of nature like Gronk.

If you start penalizing low hits and policing that out of the game, without altering any other rules that give the defenders some actual ability to defend, and you've essentially given every possible advantage to the offense, and the game simply becomes unfair. No safety in the NFL brings down Gronk with a proper wrap up tackle. Most linebackers can't do it either. This goes beyond the play that Gronk was injured on. It applies to any play in general.

Just because your guy got hurt doesn't mean the NFL should crack down on low hits. As some said earlier, if this happens to Jordan Cameron and not Gronk, no one is talking about this. Also, if the timing of the hit is half a second sooner, Gronk is fine, and no one is talking about this. It was an accident that happens while playing a violent and dangerous game. Get over it.
 

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sodenj5 said:
It's very simple. The game is already incredibly offensively biased. There used to be more contact allowed while defending. The NFL changed the rules to open up the offense. Scoring and ratings went through the roof. That's why the league is now a "passing league." Because all of the rules are skewed to allow the passing game to thrive and to protect quarterbacks and receivers. That's not debatable, it's a fact.

The way the game is presently constituted, defenders almost literally have their hands tied behind their backs. Couple that with the fact that the NFL has recently cracked down on going high, and they have very limited resources at their disposal to actually defend an athletic freak of nature like Gronk.

If you start penalizing low hits and policing that out of the game, without altering any other rules that give the defenders some actual ability to defend, and you've essentially given every possible advantage to the offense, and the game simply becomes unfair. No safety in the NFL brings down Gronk with a proper wrap up tackle. Most linebackers can't do it either. This goes beyond the play that Gronk was injured on. It applies to any play in general.

Just because your guy got hurt doesn't mean the NFL should crack down on low hits. As some said earlier, if this happens to Jordan Cameron and not Gronk, no one is talking about this. Also, if the timing of the hit is half a second sooner, Gronk is fine, and no one is talking about this. It was an accident that happens while playing a violent and dangerous game. Get over it.
Got it. You're saying rules were changed to favor the offense. And if this one change were made, that would be one change too far that triggers an offensive explosion. Also that none of the other rules could possibly be rolled back if the NFL feels that offenses now have too big an advantage. That's completely logically consistent.

I think it's almost inevitable that tackling is changed to allow only first contact at knees to shoulder blades. That won't stop all knee injuries but it should stop the bleeding from the head to head restrictions. If another prominent player has a knee blown out due to a low hit, it happens this offseason for sure. If Jimmy Graham or Dez Bryant or Megatron is injured it might happen midseason.
 

Super Nomario

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crystalline said:
I think it's almost inevitable that tackling is changed to allow only first contact at knees to shoulder blades. That won't stop all knee injuries but it should stop the bleeding from the head to head restrictions. If another prominent player has a knee blown out due to a low hit, it happens this offseason for sure. If Jimmy Graham or Dez Bryant or Megatron is injured it might happen midseason.
So, tripping someone up by the foot or shin will be a penalty?
 

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sodenj5 said:
It's very simple. The game is already incredibly offensively biased. There used to be more contact allowed while defending. The NFL changed the rules to open up the offense. Scoring and ratings went through the roof. That's why the league is now a "passing league." Because all of the rules are skewed to allow the passing game to thrive and to protect quarterbacks and receivers. That's not debatable, it's a fact.

The way the game is presently constituted, defenders almost literally have their hands tied behind their backs. Couple that with the fact that the NFL has recently cracked down on going high, and they have very limited resources at their disposal to actually defend an athletic freak of nature like Gronk.

If you start penalizing low hits and policing that out of the game, without altering any other rules that give the defenders some actual ability to defend, and you've essentially given every possible advantage to the offense, and the game simply becomes unfair. No safety in the NFL brings down Gronk with a proper wrap up tackle. Most linebackers can't do it either. This goes beyond the play that Gronk was injured on. It applies to any play in general.

Just because your guy got hurt doesn't mean the NFL should crack down on low hits. As some said earlier, if this happens to Jordan Cameron and not Gronk, no one is talking about this. Also, if the timing of the hit is half a second sooner, Gronk is fine, and no one is talking about this. It was an accident that happens while playing a violent and dangerous game. Get over it.
 
A few points:
 
1.  This isn't just because Gronk got hurt.  Gronk getting hurt certainly drew my attention to it.  But statistically, knee injuries are up significantly in the past 2 years since the head-shot rule changes.  This signals a major problem.  I don't turn on my TV to watch Matthew Mulligan attempt to hurdle people, despite that being one of my favorite parts of last game.
 
2.  Just because one player is supposedly too good to be tackled in a responsible fashion doesn't mean you should allow defenders to use a technique that is most likely causing the higher rate of these injuries.
 
3.  As I said originally, if you really want to balance things, allow a little more clutching and grabbing by defenders.  Will the league actually do this?  Probably not.  But it's easy to balance if they want to.
 
4.  Lastly, for all the talk about how the defense has its hands tied, scoring over the past 15 seasons is up between 2-3 points a game per team depending on whether you're using 1998 or 1997 as a benchmark.  This is also equal to the scoring that was done during the 1948 season, which despite me not being alive for, probably was not known for its offensively biased rules.  If scoring were up 30-40%, I think there's something here.  But despite all of the rule changes, scoring has increased about 10% over the last 15 years.  I don't think that's anything to be overly concerned about.
 
Once again, I come back to the point that "Defenders are helpless" is not a good enough justification to allow this type of hit.  The biggest thing that would happen if you banned this type of hit is that a receiver may drag a defender a few extra yards a few times a game when this type of hit actually happens.  Beyond that, I don't really see too much changing, so I think this is a no-brainer.
 

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Super Nomario said:
So, tripping someone up by the foot or shin will be a penalty?
A first guess at such a rule might be: "Contact not allowed to the area below the runner's knees and above the shoulder. exception: if the tackler's arms only first contact the area below the knees, or if during the tackle after legal first contact the tackler slides down so they are grasping the runners legs, this is legal."

Which works fine for open field running but would fail for running backs between the tackles since they often lead with their heads. Not sure how you fix that: how does rugby enforce the tackling rules for guys running low around other players?
 

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You can go helmet to helmet or helmet to knee on an RB and a receiver if they aren't defenseless, which is 99% of the time. We're talking about limited situations here.
 

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ESPN just wrote an article on how, despite rule changes and fines, hits to the head are still prevalent.

http://m.espn.go.com/nfl/story?storyId=10115901

Even if they were to change the rules and outlaw low tackles, these hits and injuries are still going to happen.

Also, if the legal target area becomes defined as "shoulders to knees" and someone hits someone square in the knee and blows out their ACL, is that a flag? Is that a fine? You're in some very gray area there.
 

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PaulinMyrBch said:
You can go helmet to helmet or helmet to knee on an RB and a receiver if they aren't defenseless, which is 99% of the time. We're talking about limited situations here.
I made this more difficult by including head hits- just ignore that part.

I think you're right that we will first see this changed for defenseless receivers. But I also think we are going to see all hits below the knee eventually banned. A few years ago cut blocks became illegal if the blocker is engaged high with another player. That may next be extended to no engagement. The NFL was thinking about knee injuries and low hits far before the Gronk injury.
 

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crystalline said:
I made this more difficult by including head hits- just ignore that part.

I think you're right that we will first see this changed for defenseless receivers. But I also think we are going to see all hits below the knee eventually banned. A few years ago cut blocks became illegal if the blocker is engaged high with another player. That may next be extended to no engagement. The NFL was thinking about knee injuries and low hits far before the Gronk injury.
That's a nice thought, but Gronk still wasn't defenseless as it's defined. That would still be a clean hit, as it was when it happened.

It's been mentioned several times by several people, if you want to outlaw hitting low, you need to give the defense something in return. More contact (clutching, holding) would have to be returned to the game. The NFL doesn't want that. They want touchdowns, and record breaking stats.

Look at how many 5000 yard seasons there were before the rule changes. There was one. Marino threw for 5084 yards in '84.

Since 2008, Brees has done it three times, Brady has done it, and Stafford did it. All three of them did it in 2011. You can't tell me that the offense hasn't benefitted from the rule changes.
 

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sodenj5 said:
It's been mentioned several times by several people, if you want to outlaw hitting low, you need to give the defense something in return. More contact (clutching, holding) would have to be returned to the game. The NFL doesn't want that. They want touchdowns, and record breaking stats.
There are (positive) safety implications here, too. Part of the problem is defenders in zone coverage flying in at high speed hitting offensive players who are also moving fast; there's just so much force involved. Rules that make man defense easier (extending the chuck zone to 10 yards, for instance) might make things safer without disrupting the offense / defense balance or creating more dubious penalties likely to be inconsistently enforced.
 
Remember, the forward pass was originally a safety measure.
 

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tims4wins said:
@ Toe Nash - I'm on mobile right now but there was a Grantland article today about the rise of knee injuries - I think it included some data from the NFL

Edit: as of Oct 23 - more than 6 weeks ago - 30 NFL players had been placed on IR this year due to a torn ACL. The full year number last year was 32, and it was 25 in 2011. That is a disturbing trend.
OK, thanks for that, there's some interesting stuff in there. But it doesn't say how many of those injuries would be prevented by outlawing low hits. In fact it talks a lot about basketball which obviously doesn't have football-like hits. Not to mention 25-32-30 isn't exactly a huge dataset nor does the increase scream "we have to do something about this." It could easily drop to 26 next year. Maybe they should be proactive and any change that can make things safer is good, and we've been talking about that, but I just don't see it as a huge problem. You'd be changing the rule to prevent a certain type of ligament tear but plenty of ligament tears will still occur.
 

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I don't think low hits will be banned for all tackles, but I think there is a chance they will for defenseless receivers. 
 
Also, while Gronk was on his third step, whether he was defenseless is questionable.  The standard isn't number of steps, but rather the following:
 
(2) A receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or 
has not clearly become a runner. If the receiver/runner is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending 
contact of an opponent, he is no longer a defenseless player; 
while he was technically running, IMO he wasn't capable of avoiding the contact.  They were on a collision course and Gronk couldn't avoid the contact.
 
For a contrast to this hit, go watch the Gronk highlight video I posted upstream, it has a few hits to his legs where he did have the opportunity to avoid the contact, and you can clearly see he does it in a way to lessen the blow and avoid the tackle.  What is interesting and what will make interpretation of the rule very difficult (if they add knees) is that Gronk was starting to be able to absorb the blow or defend himself with his upper body, but his lower body momentum wasn't quite in control enough to make an evasive/avoiding style move.  So the difficulty may be the fact that defenseless for the head and knee could be slightly different standards, which the DJ's of the world will never stop barking about. 
 
I think this possible change is far from a slam dunk, but I'd like to see it.  Knee protection for defenseless receivers. 
 
Once again, please watch the Gronk and Shady videos and notice DB's don't use head and knee shots often when the runner/receiver has a chance to avoid them.  IMO, this is because its not effective unless the ball carrier is a sitting duck. In the open field, they wrap up or hit the body because its a bigger target.
 

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sodenj5 said:
That's a nice thought, but Gronk still wasn't defenseless as it's defined. That would still be a clean hit, as it was when it happened.

It's been mentioned several times by several people, if you want to outlaw hitting low, you need to give the defense something in return. More contact (clutching, holding) would have to be returned to the game. The NFL doesn't want that. They want touchdowns, and record breaking stats.

Look at how many 5000 yard seasons there were before the rule changes. There was one. Marino threw for 5084 yards in '84.

Since 2008, Brees has done it three times, Brady has done it, and Stafford did it. All three of them did it in 2011. You can't tell me that the offense hasn't benefitted from the rule changes.
 
Let's look at why passing has actually increased.  A few different reasons:
 
1.  In 1984, the average completion percentage was 56.4%.  Today, it is 61.2%.  But yards per attempt has remained relatively constant, moving only from 7.1/attempt to 7.2/attempt.  Why?  Because although completion percentage was lower, most passes were farther down the field, making up for the reduced completion percentage.  Yards per completion has decreased over that time from 12.7/catch to 11.7/catch.
 
2.  Sacks have decreased.  Except for this year, sacks per game has been at or below 2.3 for the last 10 years, whereas back in 1984, it was 2.9 per game.
 
3.  Passing attempts per game has gone from 32/game to 35.6/game.
 
So what's the result of this?  Quarterbacks are throwing about 10% more passes per game now than in 1984, or 3.6 more passes per game.  Given the 61% completion percentage, out of those 3.6 passes, an average of 2.2 are being completed.  At an average of 11.7 yards per catch, this works out to an extra 25.7 yards per game. Actual passing has increased from 205.9 yards per game to 238.2 yards per game in that time.  So nearly all of the increase is just because quarterbacks are throwing more balls, on shorter routes, with more accuracy.
 
Now, at the same time as this, rushing has dropped off by about 10 yards a game, from 123.9 yards/game to 112.7 yards/game.  So this means the net change in yardage gained over the last 30 years has gone up by about 7%, from 329.8 to 350.9.  We're talking about 20 yards a game here.  Two first downs.  I know that people love to talk about the "explosion of offense", but you're seeing a very small and gradual shift towards more offense, not a complete reworking of the game.  
 

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The trend-line increase is all since 2004 and the trend remains on an upward trajectory.  The game is becoming more offense friendly at a faster pace than your numbers suggest.
 
'84 was a peak offensive year from that era as well.  Rerun those calculations from 1992 instead if 1984 and things will look very different.
 

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1992 and 1993 are outliers in that they are the only years since 1978 where offense was below 19 points per game, so I'm not going to base anything on that.  Let's use a compromise position of 1994.  Even then, you're seeing offense bump up 15% in terms of points and 11% in terms of yardage.  I'm not denying that the game is tilting more towards offense.  The game has historically done that since its inception.  And the data shows that while offense is up, it's not like we're seeing massive change on a yearly basis.  It's creep of 1-2% per year.
 
The fact that "there's too much offense" in football is not a good enough justification for continuing to allow these types of hits.  Again, I realize that removing the ability to go low will probably result in some additional YAC and possibly a slight uptick in scoring.  I'm not talking about removing tackling, I'm not talking about making drastic changes to how the game is supposed to be played.  I'm talking about removing a play that is dangerous and affects a minimal number of plays per game.  Is there any justification for keeping this in there other than "scoring will go up"?
 
Look at every other major sport that has contact.  Hockey does not allow you to go low.  Rugby does not allow you to go low.  Lacrosse does not allow you to go low.  Shit, even soccer, which is played with your feet, only allows for shoulder to shoulder contact.  Why does football deserve an exception?
 

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I dont thik using 1992 would paint an accurate picture either, dont get me wrong. I just dont think you have to look beyond rule changes from '04 and beyond to explain increasing offensive trends and I think extrapolating annual trends based on any year before 2004 will understate the trend of shifting towards offense.
 
I dont think the Gronk play that sparked discussion was that dangerous (the Cobb and Keller plays are way worse IMO) or covered by defenseless receiver rule changes (he was in full stride and took two steps before being hit).  I personally dont think its necessary to change the rules and, if we're concerned about player safety, Im not sure this is the number one thign that needs fixing.  Im not against player safety rule changes combined with additional changes that help out the defense (In this case, add in more legal checking and holding for the defense, maybe make PI a ten yard penalty instead of a spot foul, put flags on players so that you can pull out a flag when the receiver is defenseless and end the play...whatever). 
 
If going low completely is eliminated it is going to have a meaningful effect on how the game is played.  Defenders hit low all the time (cornerbacks making tackles on outside runs, plays on receivers near the sticks, particularly on third down, where the defense cant let players fall down for more yardage).  Running backs hit low on blitzing defenders.  Lineman cut block all the time.  Maybe that's the right answer, but its definitely going to effect how the game is played. 
 
Maybe football doesnt deserve an exception.  Its very possible that football is simply too violent to exist much longer in its current form.
 

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Chuck Z said:
1992 and 1993 are outliers in that they are the only years since 1978 where offense was below 19 points per game, so I'm not going to base anything on that.  Let's use a compromise position of 1994.  Even then, you're seeing offense bump up 15% in terms of points and 11% in terms of yardage.  I'm not denying that the game is tilting more towards offense.  The game has historically done that since its inception.  And the data shows that while offense is up, it's not like we're seeing massive change on a yearly basis.  It's creep of 1-2% per year.
 
The fact that "there's too much offense" in football is not a good enough justification for continuing to allow these types of hits.  Again, I realize that removing the ability to go low will probably result in some additional YAC and possibly a slight uptick in scoring.  I'm not talking about removing tackling, I'm not talking about making drastic changes to how the game is supposed to be played.  I'm talking about removing a play that is dangerous and affects a minimal number of plays per game.  Is there any justification for keeping this in there other than "scoring will go up"?
 
Look at every other major sport that has contact.  Hockey does not allow you to go low.  Rugby does not allow you to go low.  Lacrosse does not allow you to go low.  Shit, even soccer, which is played with your feet, only allows for shoulder to shoulder contact.  Why does football deserve an exception?
 
What's the point of football? To make it to the end zone and/or bring the player down. Going low has been one method that's been used, hitting players in the head was another method up until the past couple of years. I'm not for it, but maybe a rule about going low makes sense but it will fundamentally change the way the game is played.
 
Also, NFL rules changed in 2005 based on recommendations from Bill Polian. That's what has changed a lot of what you are talking about; after 2005 there has been virtually no contact past 5 yards on passes. That's why teams throw shorter passes - they can complete them at a higher rate. Also, look at statistics over the past 8 years, scoring is up from 20.5 to 23.5 pts/game and in EVERY season compared to the prior year since the rule change. Passing yards are up from 203/gm to 238 per game. 
 
Another thing about changing the tackling rules; it would benefit Gronk as a great player but it would also make tackling players like Brandon Jacobs a lot more difficult as well. Teams would find ways to get fast, powerful runners into space. They do it now but it would become a major weapon.
 

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jk333 said:
 
 
Another thing about changing the tackling rules; it would benefit Gronk as a great player but it would also make tackling players like Brandon Jacobs a lot more difficult as well. Teams would find ways to get fast, powerful runners into space. They do it now but it would become a major weapon.
Do you even understand the defenseless issue we're discussing?  No one that is a proponent of protecting the knees on defenseless receivers has even suggested that normal tackling rules should be changed.
 
You can hit Brandon Jacobs if he is running the ball anyway you want to.  Head, neck, knees, dick - anywhere.  The reason? Because he has a chance to either brace himself or evade the tackle or hit.  He's fair game and everyone agrees he should be.  
 
When guys don't have that ability to evade, they're defenseless, because they are either stepping into a pass or catching one.  You can't physically look for the ball and find the safety coming at you from a blind spot.  So the NFL gives them extra protection for a few seconds to give them time to get down or protect themselves.  
 
Whether Gronk was still defenseless is debatable.  Its not clear from the rule what the interpretation would have been had it been applied.  We know he was damn close, but it is irrelevant because the current rule doesn't offer him protection for that hit.  
 
The two issues in my opinion are:
1. Should the defenseless protection be increased to include the knee and below?
2. Was Gronk still defenseless per the current rule?
 
Personally, I say Yes, and Yes.  But that is just my opinion.  
 
I do think the low hits would be easier to enforce than the high ones.  When guys launch at chests, the natural flow is for the offensive player to duck and helmets touch because the helmet rides up or the offensive players helmet comes down.  You won't have that on low hits, you're either down there or you're not.  If you're targeting the waste or midsection, you're not going to unintentionally be at knee level.