SBD/February 12, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Bill Polian Says NFL Should Consider Widening Field For Safety Precautions

NFL stadiums would likely have to be reconfigured to accommodate larger fields
The NFL Competition Committee, as recently as a year ago, "kicked around the idea of a bigger field, CFL style," and the committee could "broach the subject again when it meets in Indianapolis in advance of the combine" next week, according to Dan Pompei of the NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST. ESPN's Bill Polian, a former member of the committee, said, "I’m not so sure we shouldn’t think about widening the field. It’s a radical idea, but I think it’s worth thinking about. You would have more space and perhaps a safer game. I say that based on my CFL experience. There are less collisions of that type in the Canadian game." Pompei noted the "thinking is a wider field would spread out bodies over more space, reducing hits in the middle of the field." The down the field game "wouldn’t change much, but box play could be considerably different." Pro Football HOFer Warren Moon, who played in the CFL for six years before coming to the NFL, said that there were "fewer head to head collisions by big men in the CFL." Texans Exec VP & GM Rick Smith said, "If you widen the field, you have more high speed collisions." But Polian said, "The farther a player has to run in terms of contact, the less ferocious the contact is going to be" (NATIONALFOOTBALLPOST.com, 2/10). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "If Bill Polian seriously endorses this, then you have to seriously look at doing it, even though it’s going to cost stadiums to have to be reconfigured in some places because they’re not wide enough.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “You rip out a few rows of seats, and owners have to do that in order to keep their players safe.” Kornheiser was not sure if a wider field would be safer, but noted there would be “more offense.” Wilbon: “The league is not opposed to that” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/11). NBC Sports Network’s Erik Kuselias said Polian “has been part of some fine organizations, and if he’s interested in that then we should all be interested” (“PFT,” NBC Sports Network, 2/11).

FEWER CONCUSSIONS IN CFL: In Sacramento, Victor Contreras writes while the CFL "has had its share of concussions, studies report fewer in our neighboring league, and one of the reasons cited is the wider field." If there is "a change, it's believed the NFL will keep its 100-yard-long field and 10-yard end zones." But still, the "advantages would belong to offenses with more room to run and pass." Player safety is "important, but is it worth it at the expense of changing the dynamics of the game?" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 2/12). ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said, "If it shows any evidence at all that it’s going to prevent concussions or more injuries, I’m all for it. But I want to see the study first.” But Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said with “more room to run around, I think you get more violent collisions." Cowlishaw: "I don’t think looking at the type of players they have in the CFL would tell you, ‘Well, this is going to reduce concussions in the NFL.’” ESPN’s J.A. Adande said, “I’m selling it. If one of the means to avoid injury is by running out of bounds, now you’re going to increase distance that it takes to get out of bounds. I don’t see how that’s going to help” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/11). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said, "What it would do as a practical matter is put a weight limit on the NFL, because you widen the field and you move guys out and you spread guys around. You need players who can move more quickly” ("PFT," NBC Sports Network, 2/11).

IS FOOTBALL WORTH IT? In Boston, Bob Ryan wrote, "I would argue that football today is more strategically complex and fascinating than at any point in its existence." Is football, as "entertaining as it can be, worth it?" Or would we "as a society be better off without it?" Ryan: "I believe that millions of American football fans live in denial." Football "maims people" and can "cause severe neurological damage." Ryan wrote, "I speak not of theory. I speak of fact." This being "true, how can any serious person support such an activity?" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/10)
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