Year after year, the NFL is adopting new rules aimed primarily at decreasing the number of injuries players are suffering. Defensive players complain that they can no longer go high or low, and anything involving a helmet has pretty much been banned. The kickoff spot has been moved forward to create fewer returns and new special-teams rules have been tweaked with player safety in mind (no more wedges, no pushing teammates into the formation on kicks). Plus, it's become increasingly difficult to touch quarterbacks without drawing a flag.
Critics say they might as well be wearing flags, arguing that an inherently violent sport is being watered down.
Whether or not you agree with that, it has to be discouraging to see that no few players are getting hurt.
This was one of the worst weeks for injuries I've ever seen covering the NFL. Jay Cutler's gone for a month. Sam Bradford is on injured reserve, as are Reggie Wayne, Brian Cushing and Doug Martin. Nick Foles, who was playing in relief of the injured Michael Vick, now has a concussion. Jermichael Finley was hospitalized. Lance Briggs is out six weeks with an injured shoulder. And it goes on and on. Ten real or presumed opening-day starting quarterbacks have already been sidelines.
Six weeks ago, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that 170 players had been placed on IR before Week 1, which was an all-time record. Since then, key Patriots, Packers, Broncos, Bears and Cowboys have been dropping like flies.
This can't be what the NFL had in mind when it started making major rule changes in order to "protect the players." Are the rule changes simply not having the desired effect, or are other factors — such as tentative treatment in response to pressure or fewer training camp and regular-season practices — at play?
Some around the league blame the increase of injuries on the fact that, under the terms of the CBA that has been in effect the past two offseasons, players have more off time in the offseason, then shock their bodies with some of the sudden and dramatic movements players demand their bodies to make.
We might never know for sure, because all of those changes came into place at around the same time, and there's no way the NFL will reverse course on this crusade any time soon.