While certainly a violent game, the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) is doing what it can to make football safe as logically possible.
A new set of rules changes was unfurled a few weeks ago — 11 in all — ones the national association hopes “minimizes the risks associated with the sport.”
In particular, the guidelines focused on a certain form of the onside kick, as well as an interpretation of a blindside block.
As proposed by the NFHS, the definition of a blindside block was significantly revised. In the occasion a player is carrying the football and is unable to see the hit ahead of an oncoming defender, a 15-yard penalty will be assessed.
The definition of a “defenseless player” now includes:
▪ A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass;
▪ A receiver attempting to catch a pass who has not had time to clearly become a runner;
▪ The intended receiver of a pass in the action during and immediately following an interception or potential interception;
▪ A runner already in the grasp of a tackler and whose forward progress has been stopped;
▪ A kickoff or punt returner attempting to catch or recover a kick, or one who has completed a catch or recovery and has not clearly become a ball carrier;
▪ A player on the ground including a ball carrier who has obviously given himself up and is sliding feet-first;
▪ A player obviously out of the play or not in the immediate vicinity of the runner; and
▪ A player who received a blindside block with forceful contact not initiated with open hands.
Among those happy to see some of these changes is Myrtle Beach football coach Mickey Wilson, particularly when it comes to further protecting the quarterback position.
“I think it is a good thing. Any time our game can become safer is a plus,” he said. “Our quarterbacks have taken a lot of cheap shots over the years. Maybe this will help protect that position.”
Aynor football coach Jody Jenerette was also in agreement.
“Blind side hits on punt returns are a major issue with me,” he said. “We’ve had our worst injuries occur on that play.”
In effect, the recent NFHS rules revisions also comprehensively eliminates the use of pop-up kicks.
“A new definition of a pop-up kick in Rule 2-24-10 is defined as ‘a free kick in which the kicker drives the ball immediately to the ground, the ball strikes the ground once and goes into the air in the manner of a ball kicked directly off the tee,” according to the NFHS.
The committee implemented the change in an effort to reduce risk of injury due to increased use of pop-up kicks on onside kickoffs. Such kicks will be penalized as dead-ball free kick infractions.
While all for making the game safer, Jenerette said he needs clarity on the rules change.
“We onside kick a lot, so I will definitely need that type of onside kick explained in more detail,” he said. “I think you will kickoffs disappear in 15 to 20 years. If you are really worried about safety, then kickoffs make no sense at all.”
Other amendments include:
▪ Acceptable home jersey colors have been clarified. Schools have until the 2021 season to ensure home jerseys are “a dark color that clearly contrast white.”
“The committee revised the rule to provide schools and manufacturers more clarification regarding the game’s current trend of utilizing lighter gray shades,” said Bob Colgate, director of sports and sports medicine at the NFHS and staff liaison for football.
▪ Encroachment was amended to add “defensive players are (now) restricted from contacting the ball prior to the end of the snap or making contact with the snapper’s hand(s) or arm(s) until the snapper has released the ball.
▪ Non-contact face guarding has also been eliminated from the forward-pass interference terminology.
▪ Other changes involve ball specifications, game officials, post-scrimmage kick fouls, penalty time clock management and prosthetic limbs.