The NFL has tried to minimize hits to the head with new rules, but former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark said players are more concerned with suffering a major knee injury than a concussion.
“I’ve had players in the beginning of games tell me ‘Hey RC, listen — if you got a shot, hit me up high. If you get fined, I’ll pay it,'” Clark said Tuesday on ESPN’s “First Take.”
“I had a player tell me [that] this season. I said, ‘You’re good. I don’t want to go low anyway. I’ll make the tackle.’ Players are thinking to themselves, offensive players, ‘Hey, I’d rather be hit in the head and be out one game, maybe not be out at all, than be hit in the knees and it be a season or career injury.'”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has tried to improve player safety and eliminate hits that result in concussions. Players are fined and even suspended for hits above the shoulders.
But the new rules have forced players to hit below the waist.
“While there are some that say it has had a negative [impact] — as an example, ACL injuries being up — that’s not the case,” Goodell said Monday at the NFL’s owners meetings. “What we’ve seen is that players have adjusted to the rules and they are finding that target zone, and it is a safer, better game because of it.”