The New NFL: The Game has Changed. But, How Much?

Baltimore Ravens v New England PatriotsThe NFL has some new rule changes in 2013, but has it really transformed the way we view the game?

Over the summer, as talk of the NFL’s September return started to gear up, all I heard about was the new NFL rule changes for 2013, and how much they would change the game. The major changes included banning running backs from lowering the crown of their helmet to run over defenders, “peel back” blocks are now illegal, as well as changing the way special team units can rush the kicker and punter. I heard sports talk radio hammer the new rule changes, and say that “they won’t even allow tackling soon.” Four weeks into the season, the NFL is still the most violent sport on the planet. Four weeks into the season, the average NFL fan has seen these changes have very little impact.

Outside of the new 2013 rule changes, there is no doubt that they are calling “helmet to helmet” personal fouls more and more on defensive backs, especially in college where several players have actually been ejected. However, these plays have always been overrated in my opinion. The “big hit” leading with the crown of the helmet was never considered a good football play, only a dangerous play that would ultimately wind up on the highlight reel. The new rules force the players to make fundamentally sound tackles, and make a play on the ball instead of “jacking up” wide receivers roaming the middle of the field. Taking these plays out of the game, in my opinion, has not changed the game for me as a fan. For the players, I am sure making the adjustment has been difficult. Although, if it’s able to save a player from getting concussed, or ultimately end up paralyzed, as fans, we should be all for it.

For those who say we cannot legislate everything out of the game; I agree. It is true we cannot end all injuries, and we cannot throw flags after every big hit. One aspect of the game that has absolutely been changed (and essentially ruined, in my opinion) is the kickoff. Several seasons ago, the NFL changed the placement of the kickoff from the 30 yard line to the 35 yard line. This had a huge effect on the number of touchbacks, as they have tripled, according to the New Republic. Once known as one of the most thrilling plays in all of sports, the kickoff return always had the potential to be a game changer. This season I cannot recall a kickoff return for a touchdown through the first four weeks, and it seems rare when the return man even takes the ball out of the end zone. It’s obvious that the NFL has done this for player safety – the kickoff is without a doubt the most dangerous part of the game. This has been probably the biggest balancing act of the NFL: to keep the kickoff or scrap it?  Bucs coach Greg Schiano called for the kickoff to be eliminated, and it seems the league is certainly headed in that direction.

Overall, I may be in the minority, but I think as fans we should be applauding the NFL rule changes. When I watch the games each week, there really is not much difference between the games now and a few seasons ago. The enforcement of the new rules must be extremely difficult for referees to govern, so our teams may get “screwed” from time to time. And for players, there are those who obviously must alter the way they play, as the Lawrence Taylor or Ray Lewis big hits will no longer fly. (Thankfully guys like Lewis and LT no longer play, because there would be no legislating them).

Eventually, it should be interesting to see if there is any correlation between a drop in concussions and the new rules. I believe it ultimately will have an effect. Although I concede that it’s a slippery slope with all the rules changes, if the NFL does not continue to amend the rules and the way the game has played, the sport we have grown to love on Sundays (and Saturdays, too) may not be around much longer.

How do you feel about the “new” NFL? Have the rule changes made a big difference? Weigh in using the comments section below, or reach out to us on Twitter or Facebook.


Image credit: Jim Rogash, Getty Images

About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.


  1. andrew henry says:

    Im interested how, these rule changes will trickle down and effect the way the youth amd high school games are played. It may lessen injuries outside the nfl too.

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