Fans, it’s not your imagination. More NFL players are getting hurt than they did in past years. ESPN’s John Clayton studied the numbers and found that starters are spending less time on the field. Watching Le’Veon Bell fall flat and motionless for minutes during the Steelers Thanksgiving matchup against the Ravens knocked the air of the room until he finally stood up. The concussions and ACL tears are on the rise, along with fines and the blood pressure of many fans and families.
“Injuries are up 14.3% Literally, if you’re looking at missed games of starters, over 120 starters missing this year more than last year.” John Clayton on Mike and Mike 11/26
Many experts trace the increase back to the changes laid out in the 2011 CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) which reduced preseason practices and limited the number of full-contact padded practices during the season. [Bucky Brooks article 2011] Coaches pushed back and warned that players would be ill-prepared for the games. Just as they thought, the number of on field rose dramatically.
Recent rule changes around tackling are an even bigger issue when combined with the changes to the CBA. They were front and center on the sports media when the 49ers’ Ahmad Brooks tackled the Saints’ Drew Brees. Brooks was fined $15,750 for the hit and legendary linebackers like Teddy Bruschi and Ray Lewis sounded off, even offering to pay part of the fine. Brooks declined but many other players have been hit with fines may have taken them up on it.
Fines won’t fix this. Football is a brutal sport. There’s no getting around injuries and players understand the risk. However, rules should not exacerbate the problem. Some rules are good, such as the concussion protocol that makes players are evaluated the minute there’s a chance a player sustained a concussion during the course of play. But not all rules are helping. There should be no circumstances where a rule makes it even harder to play safe.
Something has to change. What do you think the NFL should do about the increase in injuries? Email us at fanhood @sidelinepass.com.