The NFL is always talking about how it cares for the safety of its players, and during the annual NFL owners meeting this week, the owners collectively agreed to increase player safety by eliminating blindside blocks, starting with the 2019 season.
Any forcible hit or contact from a blocker with his head, shoulder, or forearm is strictly prohibited under the new rules.
To clarify the rule change, the Twitter account belonging to the NFL Football Operations staff produced an educational video clarifying the new rule. It states that a blindside block “is a foul if a player initiates a block in which he is moving toward or parallel to his own end line and makes forcible contact to his opponent with his helmet, forearm, or shoulder.”
To expand protection of the player being blocked, @NFL owners voted to eliminate blindside blocks. One-third of all concussions on punts were caused by blindside blocks. With the rule change, any forcible contact by the blocker with his head, shoulder or forearm is prohibited. pic.twitter.com/abA2cENnXe— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) March 26, 2019
Under the old rules, blindside blocks were considered a penalty only if the hit was targeted to the player’s head or neck area.
The Buffalo Bills saw one of their more dependable scoring threats, placekicker Stephen Hauschka, suffer an injury on a blindside kick right before halftime of a Week 14 loss to the New York Jets. Just before halftime, after Hauschka’s field-goal attempt was blocked, Hauschka suffered a hip injury after he was crushed on a blindside hit from Jets defensive end Henry Anderson.
Tough Guy Alert. pic.twitter.com/dQlTVr54y7— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) December 9, 2018
Hauschka was several yards away from the action and was unaware of the impending doom about to be delivered to him by Anderson, who had rushed around the skirmish from outside of Hauschka’s line of sight to bring his punishing shoulder blast hit on the kicker. Afterwards, Hauschka was down on the turf in visible pain while no flag was thrown by the referees.
At the time, head coach Sean McDermott thought the blindside hit crossed the line and represented a dangerous hit.
”It’s a shame that Stephen Hauschka took the hit he did. There’s no place in our game for plays like that,” McDermott told reporters the day after the game.
Anderson said the play was legal.
“I would like to plead my case to you and say that was a totally legal and fair play,” Anderson said. ”If I blocked him in the back, he would have fallen forward and on his face from it. The way I hit him, I hit him on the side and extended my left arm out to make him fall backward and on his butt. The block in the back is not true because … he wasn’t falling forward at all.”
“When the guy who picked up the fumble reversed field, he started angling toward the ball carrier and started positioning himself,” Anderson added. “He wasn’t in a dead sprint or anything, but he was working his way to cut him off and to try to make the tackle. I saw that and I know as a defensive player, the defensive coaches always tell you that the kickers are kind of under the same umbrella as quarterbacks. If they are trying to stay out of the play, you’re not supposed to tough them because they are protected by the rules. If they start making their way and positioning themselves to make a play on the ball, they are fair game and you can hit them.”
“If I was really trying to (mess him up), I could have put a whole lot more force behind that hit … and done a lot more damage than I did. … I understand some of the Bills fans’ anger and frustration, but it’s within the rulebook,” Anderson said.
Not anymore. If such a hit were to occur during the 2019 season, it would represent a penalty under the new rules. No penalty was called on the play, but Anderson was fined.