Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was on ESPN Friday morning and he made it a point to say that he believes players should have a say in any rules changes made by the NFL.
“There\’s rule changes every year,” Polamalu said. “I do wish, however, that the NFL did have a voice from the players\’ side, whether it\’s our players\’ union president, or team captains, or our executive committee on the players\’ side. Because we\’re the guys that realize the risk, we\’re the guys on the field.”
Polamalu was obviously referring to the recent rule change that was put into place at the NFL owners meetings that eliminates hits by a player, most notably running backs, from leading with the crown of the helmet outside the tackle box. As an in-the-box NFL safety, you can imagine that rule change hit home with the Steelers long-time defensive back.
“We\’re professional athletes, so we can adjust, but we grow up understanding instinctively how to play the game of football, and it\’s really hard to say, \’OK, eventually I\’m not going to be able to use my head, or wrap with my arms\’ or whatever it may be,” Polamalu said during the interview.
“I think you can only do so much to the game before you really start to change the essence of our sport. Our sport is not made for anybody to be able to play it, especially at the NFL level, so there\’s obviously some risk that we all take knowingly.”
Polamalu said that while the league is aggressively trying to make the game safer very quickly, they are also changing the face of a game that everyone understands is a violent one.
“Football is a very physical sport, and a lot of what separates the good from the great (is) the ability to receive contact, to give contact, to overcome the mental block of injury when you have contact,” Polamalu said. “I understand that they want the sport to be safer, but eventually you\’re going to start to take away from the essence of this game and it\’s not really going to be the football that we all love and have a passion for.”
While the NFL competition committee did seek player input before the owners passed the rule change by a 31-1 vote, Polamalu does make a great point. Perhaps each and every player should be able to vote on every rule change, especially when it relates to player safety. The league certainly has an obligation to protect its players, but all of the aggressive changes, should they continue, could ultimately drive more fans away, and that would result in players ultimately not being able to make as a much money.