Sign of the Times – Player Evolution and Player Safety

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 8, 2009 – 9:06 am

A great weekend of college football was capped off Monday night by the football game of the year so far – the University of Miami came from behind to beat Florida State on the road 38-34. There’s no question we are all excited for the start of the NFL season, but this past weekend’s exciting action – and espeically last night’s game – only added to the anxiety of it all.

The aspect of college football that stands out to me is how big, fast and strong the athletes continue to be. And it’s not big, strong OR fast. It’s big, strong AND fast. Most of the players today possess all 3 traits.

This isn’t anything new – there have always been premier athletes in college football. But I continue to be amazed at how many of them there are…there seems to be more and more of them on the field. Instead of there being a handful of these standout athletes in each game, there are now upwards of 15 or 20 in each game.

So this leads me to think of something else beyond just the game being played and who wins and loses. With the speed of the game increasing, and with the size and strength of the athletes increasing, player safety continues to be an issue at the forefront of the sport.

Players on the field are moving faster than ever, but they are also colliding harder than ever. And that’s why many of the NFL’s rule changes over the past several years have been with player safety in mind. There are now rules that extend protection to defenseless receivers. The NFL has outlawed the 3-man wedge of kickoff returns. QBs are protected more and more.

Carson Palmer’s comments to Peter King in the writer’s recent MMQB column really hammer this point home. Check them out if you didn’t see them.

I know a lot of times the players, especially defensive players, get frustrated with some of the new or amended rules that at the surface seem to favor the offense. But I believe that these rules are not a function of favoring offense; the purpose of the rules is to protect the players.

Watching the sport recently, at both the collegiate level and the pro level, really makes one realize how important player safety is going to be as we move forward in the sport and as the sport’s athletes continue to get bigger, stronger AND faster.

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