I know it is a source of pride for a lot of Steelers fans that their smiling wide receiver Hines Ward blocks like a maniac. I honestly wish Browns wide receivers cared about blocking downfield. Still, it seems to me that a lot of Ward’s greatest hits are based on hunting for guys who aren’t looking and then attempting to de-brain them. He lowered his helmet on Ed Reed, broke Keith Rivers’ jaw, blew up Bart Scott and achieved a $5000 fine for hitting Daven Holly in a helmet to helmet after Najeh Davenport was already down in a game against the Browns. Holly went on to miss the next game with a concussion.
Amongst the four new safety proposals that the NFL has passed this year at the owners’ meetings, one seems like it is instituting what I am calling the “Hines Ward” rule.
The third accepted proposal involves a play in which Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward made a block that resulted in a broken jaw for Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers. A 15-yard penalty will be enforced if a player delivers a blindside block to the head of a defender using his helmet, forearm or shoulder. The penalty will be enforced if a helmet, shoulder or forearm strikes the head or neck of the defender.
Honestly, it is a shame that this rule is coming into effect. Not that I don’t think Hines Ward is dirty and tries to make the most explosive hit possible. I do. I just think this rule is going to be a really tough judgment call for officials to make on the field. I am guessing that a lot of guys who don’t deliberately head hunt with the unnecessary veracity that Ward does will end up getting penalized for plays that don’t really fall into the same category. It is another case where one bad apple spoils the bunch, and as NFL fans we now have one more rule to worry about to upend offensive possessions.
Other safety measures added by the NFL include stricter rules on the “wedge” for kickoffs, rules for lining up for onside kicks, and stepped up protections for defenseless receivers from forearm and shoulder hits.