Longtime NFL viewers have surely noticed the changes in officiating over the last several years. Hits once deemed acceptable are now being penalized, as the league continues to emphasize player safety. This change has ultimately led to better protection for quarterbacks, which has in turn changed the way the position is played.
Tom Brady made this point when asked if there are more athletic quarterbacks in today's NFL than at any other point in league history. Brady said that while there are certainly some athletic marvels currently playing the position, the league has always had special athletic talents under center.
"I think there's probably a lot of short-sidedness," Brady said on the "Let's Go" podcast. "I think the game changes in different ways, absolutely. It evolves and changes and grows. Hopefully, it's getting better, and at the same time, I think that there's always been incredible athletes playing professional football at the quarterback position."
Brady alluded to Randall Cunningham, Kenny Stabler, Roger Staubach, Michael Vick and Steve Young as past quarterbacks who parlayed their athletic ability into successful NFL careers. During the Ravens' Week 2 win over the Chiefs, Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson joined Cunningham, Young and Vick on the list of players who have rushed for 3,000 yards in less than 500 attempts. That list also includes former Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles.
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Brady acknowledged that the officiating changes have changed the way the game is played.
"They're calling more penalties on defensive players for violent contact," Brady said. "We got called on a play [this past Sunday] when Ryan Jensen is going basically to protect our runner and they throw an unnecessary roughness on an offensive lineman that I don't think would have been called five years ago. There's a lot of plays and hits happening on quarterbacks now that are flags for defensive players that probably weren't that way 10 of 15 years ago.
"I'd say the game is a little softer than it used to be. I think defensive players are more on the defensive when they go in to tackle. I think that's probably adding to this element of quarterbacks outside the pocket taking more chances than they did in the past."
While Brady is right in his assessment, the officiating changes have led to higher scoring games, which traditionally has been a good thing for the league. The changes have also helped quarterbacks play well into their late '30s or, in Brady's case, into their mid '40s. In fact, the 44-year-old, seven-time Super Bowl champion has not ruled out eventually becoming the league's first 50-year-old player.
"Whether I think I can or I will are two different things," said Brady, who added that he has already committed to playing in 2022. "From my body standpoint, how I've been able to take care of myself over the years can put me in position to do that. You never know what can happen as I keep moving forward."
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