Ruling on a few rules

Posted: September 25, 2013

Rules, rules, rules, part 1.

CHIP KELLY wants nothing to do with the discussion and I get that. He is most identified with the hurry-up offense that is popping up all over the NFL, and thus any attempt to goad him into a discussion about defensive players faking injuries will undoubtedly sound like whining to those listening nationwide.

But if Chip's offense is no fad - and Donovan McNabb saying it is almost assures that it isn't - then the NFL is going to have a bigger and bigger problem on its hands in the years to come.

Teams are already coaching their players to fake injuries as a means to slow down the no-huddle. You know it, I know it, Roger Goodell knows it. You don't need to be watching an Eagles game to see it, and those occurrences of a player standing calmly after a play looking just fine 1 second, then grabbing his leg the next will only multiply as more teams try to force the opposition into playing vanilla defenses with the hurry-up.

So what do you do? Publicly Kelly says do nothing. So do several former players I have asked, including Ike Reese, now a radio talk-show host. Reese says you can't do anything because you can't for certain judge whether a player is really hurt or not, even when it looks obvious. In this day of concussion lawsuits and player-safety missives, this is probably where Goodell stands, too.

For now.

But if the NFL starts resembling premier league and international soccer with all its theatrical limb-grabbing, I think they need to do something to avoid further depreciation of its product. And I think the simple solution goes like this:

Any defensive player whose injury forces the game to stop must leave the field until the opposing team registers a first down or surrenders possession via punt, touchdown or turnover. If you are that hurt, you should probably take your time getting back in anyway, so the league would come across as acting responsibly, scoring all kinds of brownie points.

This could mean missing one play, two plays, three plays. But if the player is say, as valued a cover guy as Kansas City's Sean Smith, he might think twice about grabbing his calf a full 2 or 3 seconds after the play has ended.

And if he's playing hurt, as the Chiefs' Brandon Flowers was Thursday night? Again, if he is so hurt as to interrupt the game's flow, he should be rested.

I have no great optimism this will be addressed anytime soon, or that I will receive much support right now, especially from the dyed-in-wool NFL types. Just remember where you heard it first.

Rules, rules, rules, part 2.

Last week I thought the new NHL rule that penalizes players for removing their own helmets before a fight was the silliest thing I had ever heard. Especially after seeing the clip of Brett Gallant of the New York Islanders and Krys Barch of the New Jersey Devils almost politely pulling each other's helmets off before beginning to swap haymakers.

What's next, I thought - touching gloves?

My thought was: You're penalizing them for removing something likely to inflict more harm than 99 percent of all punches thrown in NHL fights? I wince every time I see bare knuckles miss their target - which is 90 percent of the time in hockey fights - and hit that hard plastic instead.

Whose side are you on?

But then came Sunday's unending fracas involving the Buffalo Sabres and their northern neighbors, the Toronto Maple Leafs, which began after Toronto's Corey Tropp had his helmet knocked off amid a fight with Buffalo's Jamie Devane, lost his balance after a punch, and slammed the back of his head to the ice, rendering him unconscious.

Now I feel stupid for calling the new rule stupid. Especially after someone reminded me this was exactly how the only known death from a hockey fight occurred. In January 2009, Don Sanderson of the Whitby Dunlops died, a month after sustaining a head injury when his helmet came off during a fight and his unprotected head slammed to the ice.

Now I want a rule that says if your helmet comes off you have to call a timeout until you can put it back on. Yes, this would look more ridiculous than that fight between Gallant and Barch, but you would never have to see a guy's head slam to the ice like that again.

Seems like a fair trade.


On Twitter: @samdonnellon

philly.com/SamDonnellon

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