A new report claims the NFL will monitor hits to the knees of defenseless players this season, with the possibility of extending rules protecting players even further.
The league’s chief of football operations, Ray Anderson, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that if the NFL’s competition committee sees enough evidence this season that hits to the knees are “becoming a problem” it could take action. The committee could make a recommendation next March to the owners to ban hits to the knees of defenseless players. The owners would then have to vote on a change.
The league has outlawed hits to the head and neck of defenseless players, but two preseason incidents have raised concerns that players will begin to target knees now. Hits that injured Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller and Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams have drawn complaints from players. Keller is out for the year with several torn knee ligaments and Williams has a hyperextended knee.
Anderson had the following to say about a potential rule change:
“We are always looking at plays that may elevate themselves and we do include in that category hits on defenseless players. And certainly the hits to knees to players who have not had the opportunity to protect themselves or are not looking in the direction of where the hit comes from – we have had a couple of hits whereby a player was hit below (or at) the knees.”
Anderson said the league will monitor plays during the year and study the data when the competition committee meets after the season.
The injuries to Keller and Williams have caused an uproar around the league, since offensive players are worried about shots below the waist potentially ending their careers. Meanwhile, defenders feel they’re caught between a rock and a hard place, since they can’t hit high anymore, and have to target players lower on their bodies. It will be interesting to see how the league handles this situation.