Over the last few seasons many analysts and NFL players have stated that the game of football has been getting too soft. In fact, some people may say they could watch a game of backyard football that is more physical than the NFL. Now that might be an exaggeration but the fact is that the NFL has been trying to remove the physical nature of the sport; adding new penalties and rules that prohibit players from certain contact in one way or another.
The NFL has went as far as removing the old ESPN segment “Jacked Up.” I am sure many of you remember the segment where Shannon Sharpe would be screaming and yelling “YOU GOT JACKED UP!” Sure, every NFL fan and player who watched got some chills but that is the nature of the game. The game of football was all about making big hits, showing off, and thrilling the fans. And what NFL fan doesn’t want to see that bone crushing hit that makes you cringe? That’s the game of football, am I right?
ESPN Segment “You Got Jacked Up”
When talking about the big hits that once were allowed in the NFL, Nate Burleson said “It was our slam dunk for the NFL.” He was exactly right, those big hits were the moment every fan and every player (besides the guy taken the hit) waited for. It was that moment that could change the momentum of a game. The hits that make a wide receiver think twice before he runs the route across the middle.
However, in today’s football it seems when you see a big hit it’s followed by a yellow flag. Yes, we all know that the yellow flag is used too much these days. Like when a linebacker gets called for unnecessary roughness, because a wide receiver caught a ball coming across the middle and the linebacker leveled him (and I am not talking about a helmet to helmet hit).
I was talking to one of my co-workers about a game last week and he stated “I didn’t see the game, I don’t watch the NFL anymore.” I was shocked, I mean this was a guy who practically owned every piece of Pittsburgh Steelers memorabilia in existence. My friend also added that the game of football was too soft and not what it used to be. I began to think, could I ever step away from the NFL and not watch any games because of the lack of physicality and hard hits? Is it truly that soft? So I decided, enough of the speculation, how about we simply let the numbers tell the story.
Before you look into these numbers, there are a few things you should know. The 2013 numbers are based only on the first 13 weeks of the season. Also, you have to keep in mind that the numbers may have decreased due to rules that were established. This would cause players to be more cautious about their hits.
Unnecessary Roughness Infractions (2009 – 2013)
Definition: A conduct or safety-related infraction such as hitting a ball carrier after he is already out of bounds, piling on a ball carrier that is already down, or violent contact with an opponent who is away from and out of the play.
2013 – 163*
2012 – 176
2011 – 186
2010 – 163
2009 – 148
Roughing the Passer Infractions (2009 – 2013)
Definition: A defender continues an effort to tackle or hit a passer after the passer has already thrown a pass. A defender is allowed to take one step after the ball is thrown; a defender is penalized if he hits the passer having taken two or more steps after the ball leaves the passer’s hand.
2013 – 66*
2012 – 90
2011 – 100
2010 – 79
2009 – 69
Defensive Pass Interference Infractions (2009 – 2013)
Definition: Making intentional physical contact with an intended receiver after the ball has been thrown and before it has been touched by another player, in order to hinder or prevent him from catching a forward pass.
2013 – 189*
2012 – 253
2011 – 210
2010 – 207
2009 – 190
From 2009 to the current year, most of these penalties (as mentioned above) have been called more often. It’s a small portion but any fan can tell that officials are throwing the yellow flag quicker today and not letting the players play. Sure some of these penalties are true penalties and need to be called because of player safety. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for player safety but perhaps the NFL should allow the players to play and keep the game of football the way it was intended to be played.