The need to balance player safety with getting players prepared for the upcoming season has been a big thorn in the NFL’s side ever since controversy over concussions started gaining steam several years ago.
On Wednesday at its owners’ meeting, the NFL opted to ban three classic lineman drills from training camp in the hopes that reducing the number of full-speed collisions in the trenches will in turn reduce both actual concussions during training camp and possible long-term effects on players’ health, according to CBS Sports.
The three drills eliminated are known as Oklahoma, King of the Circle (or Bull in the Ring, depending on a team’s specific naming choice) and Half Line, as NFL.com’s Judy Battista noted on Twitter.
The league has also made player safety recommendations to teams about drills that should no longer be used in training camp. The banned drills: Oklahoma, Bull in the Ring/King of the Circle, Half Line/3 Spot/Pods. The hope is this will drive down concussion numbers in camp.
— Judy Battista (@judybattista) May 22, 2019
The Washington Post’s Mark Maske pointed out that the NFL will be carefully monitoring teams and treating use of the forbidden drills as it would any other offseason practice violation.
NFL has barred teams from using certain dangerous drills (Oklahoma drill, king of the circle, bull in the ring) during training camp. League will monitor and enforce that ban much in the same way that it deals with any violations of the offseason practice rules.
— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) May 22, 2019
And Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated revealed the list of names of players, coaches and referees who provided the league with the guidelines used to create these new rules.
The NFL is outlawing 4 drills, including, Oklahoma and Bull in the Ring. Was a result of a forum the league held on 4/17 to discuss training camp drills for linemen.
Among those in Atlanta for that forum last month. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Um90knmTdC
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) May 22, 2019
If nothing else, the NFL didn’t simply pull this out of the clear blue sky.
The league asked people who have run the drills, coached the drills and officiated actual games what they thought would be most effective way to reduce head injuries.
For those unfamiliar with football drills, the Oklahoma drill, named after the university that pioneered it, is a simulation of run-blocking where an offensive lineman and defensive lineman engage while a runner tries to hit the hole created between the linemen and a set of blocking pads that represents the other linemen in a full formation.
The King of the Circle drill should be instantly recognizable to anyone with a passing familiarity with one of Japan’s most popular sports, sumo wrestling.
And if regular football is a foot-long sub sandwich, the Half-Line drill is the six-inch version.
Of course, nothing happens in a vacuum.
Some fans are already up in arms over what they see as turning football into something that would be unrecognizable to old-school players and coaches.
The sissyfication continues.
— Jason Dean (@JasonDean227) May 22, 2019
Others defended the league and those who advanced the guidelines.
I appreciate you guys’ enthusiasm, but somehow I trust the names on that list to know if these drills are worth doing over Cooch and no profile pic guy from twitter. Call me crazy.
— Beige Trundullbush (@BamboozledIdiot) May 22, 2019
Whether players are any safer, or whether the NFL continues to see longtime fans abandon the game, remains to be seen.
We won’t know until the TV ratings start coming in this September what effect, if any, all of this will have.
Until then, the debate will continue to rage.
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