NFL looks north for safety ideas


Will the NFL field look more like the Canadian Football League fields in the future?

American football fans don’t think much about the Canadian Football League – in fact, friends of the National Football League think its junior league is somewhat of a joke.

But don’t tell that to the members of the NFL’s competition committee. You see, the committee has been looking for ways to continue to improve their game and have been eyeing the fields in Canada and considering making NFL fields bigger to enhance safety.

Dan Pompei wrote a piece about the competition committee’s considerations in today’s National Football Post … an article that should at least raise a couple of eyebrows, if not bring it into the discussion.

When you think about it, it’s not such a bad idea. The CFL fields are 195 feet wide (NFL fields are 160) and are 30 yards longer than the fields to the south.

But how would this enhance safety? The thinking on one side is that it spreads players out and reduces crushing collisions over the middle of the field. It would also change the physical makeup of players as teams would need smaller, faster individuals to cover more ground.

Big hits are one of the reasons the NFL is such a popular game.

However, there are those who feel that more room on the field would allow players more space to gain the speed needed for high-impact collisions. Those are polar opposite views that would have to be investigated further.

The question is whether the owners would be open to the idea. Not only would it change the nature of the game (higher scoring, less defense), but physical changes would also have to be made to stadiums, which might come at a large cost to the owners.

Those are questions that would need to be addressed down the road, but it’s not stopping the competition committee from considering the options.

Pompei’s discussion included comments from former competition committee member Bill Polian. He 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.”

Warren Moon

Even Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon got into the discussion.

Here’s what he had to say to Pompei: “The lower impact hits I think cause more problems over a period of time because there are more of them. A wide receiver doesn’t get the number of hits a linebacker or lineman gets on a day to day basis. Those hits accumulate over time and probably do more damage than a big hit a receiver might get a few times a season.”

It’s clearly a radical idea that would have a profound affect on the NFL. Maybe too profound. There are less radical ideas out there, such as widening the hash marks, but nobody’s really sure that would have any impact on player safety. After all, that’s what the entire intent is here.

As the NFL continues to look for ways to make things safer for players, yet keep the explosive allure for fans, there will probably be more radical ideas. After all, if change is to be made, most times it’s the radical ideas that make a difference.

It will be interesting to see just how much discussion this idea brings.

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Video of NFL big hits