The NFL owners continue to adjust the rules to bring greater safety to the gridiron. The four new rules agreed upon are as follows:
Onside kicks definitely lend themselves to a little bit of excessive violence, given that you're going after one guy and trying to jar the ball loose. This new rule states that players will have to be spaced out more. At least four players of the kicking team must be on each side of the kicker, and at least three players must be lined up outside each inbounds line, including one who must be outside the yard-line number.
Teams have always used the wedge on kickoffs. It's a move in which three players lined up in a blocking triangle that a returner follows as it goes up the field against kickoff coverage. The committee felt it was leading to too many injuries. Starting this season, no more than two receiver team players may intentionally form a wedge to help the returner. The penalty is 15 yards and will be enforced from the spot of the wedge. It will be called if three or more players line up shoulder to shoulder within two yards of each other to lead the blocking.
Blocking defenseless defenders
This rule comes in after Hines Ward's devastating block on Keith Rivers that broke Rivers jaw. Now, a 15-yard penalty will be enforced if a player delivers a blindside block to the head of a defender using his helmet, forearm or shoulder. The penalty will be enforced if a helmet, shoulder or forearm strikes the head or neck of the defender.
Previously, officials gave an unnecessary roughness penalty to a defender if he delivered a helmet hit to a receiver going across the middle of the field or any spot on the field in which he appeared to be defenseless. Starting this season, the penalty will also apply if the defender hits the defenseless receiver in the head or neck with his forearm or shoulder.
While I occasionally think the league protects the QB too much, none of these rules seems to be over-protective. There have been some serious injuries and given the physical nature of football, that won't change anytime soon. However, these particular rules will certainly help a little bit.