Make no mistake, Kevin Byard is all for NFL players being protected as much as possible on the field.
But the Tennessee Titans safety is struggling to wrap his mind around the league’s new rule that calls for a 15-yard penalty and possible ejection if a player lowers his head and makes contact with another player.
‘I think it’s going to be very subjective’
Frankly, as Byard explained to Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn on the SiriusXM Blitz, he has no idea how officials will be able to make such calls, especially in the early going.
“I think it’s going to be very subjective,” Byard said. “I think it’s going to be very hard to officiate at first. It’s definitely going to change the game. I don’t know if it’s going to make the game worse, I don’t know if it’s going to make the game safer. I think this is a contact sport, so things like concussions and things like that will always be in the game. But we’re definitely hoping I’ll see, the NFL’s hoping, that it’s being reduced.”
‘Honestly, I think guys have done a great job the past few years with not hitting guys up high‘
In Byard’s view, he and other defenders around the league already were more mindful than ever about not delivering head shots.
“Honestly, I think guys have done a great job the past few years with not hitting guys up high,” he said. “I mean, of course, you still see it, because a lot of times it’s a bang-bang play in the game. Let’s say a receiver or tight end is going up the seam and he catches the ball and he knows the safety’s coming and he ducks his body and lowers his body, which lowers the target for a player. And the player’s already trying to go make a tackle and he gets flagged because he maybe hit him too high, but if you’re watching on film, you see the receiver actually lowered his target as well.”
‘When I see the ball-carrier gets the ball, especially in the toss play, I’m running full speed to go get him‘
Byard doesn’t know what to expect when the offseason begins. Will there be a noticeable difference in how he and other players are trained? Will he and other players need to significantly adjust how they prepare for the 2018 season and beyond?
“Honestly, I’m not sure because I’m a safety and a lot of times I am aligned in the deep part of the field, so when I see the ball-carrier gets the ball, especially in the toss play, I’m running full speed to go get him,” Byard said. “So I can’t sit here and say that if I’m running full speed to come get a guy and I see he’s making the turn to go up the sidelines that I’m just going to be able to face him up and keep my head totally standing up and we just hit each other just like that where we’re both standing straight up. I don’t really see that being possible.
‘How can you officiate that and kick certain guys out of the game every week?‘
“So that’s why I’m saying it’s going to be very subjective as far as how the refs officiate that and especially when you have superstars in this game, offensive players who sell a lot of tickets and they’re having to deal with the same thing. How can you officiate that and kick certain guys out of the game every week? Because that’s going to be an even bigger impact if you’re seeing guys like Marshawn Lynch, who does that a lot of times because he’s more of a smaller, compact guy. I mean, you don’t want to see these kicked out of the game, man. You want to be able to compete with the best players in the league.
“I think, when the season first starts, especially in the preseason, you’re going to see a lot of ejections. Because I think they’re going to try to get this nipped in the bud as fast as they can.”
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