While the NFL front office is planning one spectacular Christmas party, partly due to two fines levied against Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward for god only knows what, criticism on the new direction under commissioner Roger Goodell is coming from an surprising source, Troy Polamalu. The 5’10, 207 lb, hard hitting, soft spoken, Steelers strong safety believes that direction is becoming a “pansy game”.
"I think regarding the evolution of football, it's becoming more and more flag football, two-hand touch. We've really lost the essence of what real American football is about. I think it's probably all about money. They're not really concerned about safety."
Perhaps Polamalu is correct, especially when he compares the old school NFL and the likes of Jack Tatum and Ronnie Lott and how their style of play would have drawn fine after fine under the new guidelines. Given the enormous contracts and the need to protect the franchise arm, more and more rules have been put in place to protect the quarterback.
"You have to figure out how to tackle people a new way," he said. "There's such a fine line. I guess, hitting quarterbacks late and whether they're going to slide or come forward -- it's too much.”
Indeed, the new rules have not only taken away a lot of the physicality of the game, but has led to a lot of inconsistencies in the calls by the officiating crews. How often have we seen a Steeler defender this year get penalized with a late hit just as the quarterback releases the ball, yet, an obvious late hit doesn’t draw a flag? This isn’t something that’s unique to Steelers games, but have been seen against other teams also.
There’s been an obvious shift that we’ve been noticing in professional football where it seems to have gone from a game in the trenches to one of finesse, that could be equated to “grass basketball”. No doubt that high scoring games seem to be the fave among fans and add to the increasing popularity of free and pay-to-play fantasy football, could it be that the rules are being adjusted to accommodate these trends? After all, where’s the attraction in putting together a fantasy team if your quarterback isn’t going to have the chance to throw for 400 plus yds in a game?
The argument that the rules are in place to protect the players, but at what point does it stop being about protecting the players and becomes about babying the players? Rules are already in place to protect quarterbacks and other players from obvious season or career ending injuries. Helmet-to-helmet hits, horse collar tackles, chop blocks, have all been deemed as against regulation and will draw penalties, if not fines. However, the very nature of the game poses a risk of injury to all players, even when the hit is clean. You can only do so much before you take away, as Polamalu puts it, the very essence of the game.