The criticism of the league’s increased emphasis on player safety over the past few years by players, fans, and coaches alike has often honed in on Roger Goodell’s crosshairs being well intentioned, but biased. A series of rules (i.e: defensive backs can’t launch and lead with their helmets) have been implemented with the goal of reducing head injuries, and protecting defenseless players. But only if they don’t play defense.
Defenders who are put in vulnerable positions were ignored as the focus remained almost solely on concussions and head trauma. That changed today.
As part of the annual consideration of rules that are either tweaked (see below) or radically changed (the infamous tuck rule will be evaluated tomorrow) at the annual owners meetings, the league passed a rule entirely banning “peel-back blocks” today. What the hell is that, you ask? This (sort of)…
That’s the last time we saw Brian Cushing this past season, as the middle linebacker’s ACL ripped when his lower body was targeted by a peel-back block executed (poorly) by Jets offensive lineman Matt Slauson. This specific play was still deemed illegal and Slausen was fined $10,000. That’s because until today, peel-back blocks were permitted as long as the primary point of contact wasn’t the defender’s back or side (Slauson’s mistake).
While there’s little debate that this rule is necessary for the increased safety of defenders, it’ll be interesting to see how much it changes the rushing attack of certain offenses. Peel-back blocks are often used by zone-blocking teams, like the Texans themselves.