INDIANAPOLIS -- Alabama's Mark Barron, the top-rated safety in the 2012 NFL draft, will have to deal with stricter safety rules once he recovers from hernia surgery.
"I don't like them," Barron said flatly when asked about rules against dangerous hits.
The rules have opened the middle of the field for offenses by protecting receivers the NFL considers defenseless. The idea is to limit concussions and other serious injuries with long-range consequences for athletes. But some players factor those risks into the game and would prefer to play under the old rules.
"The way I have been taught to play the game, I hit and I hit hard," Barron said. "I guess I'll have to make some adjustments. Hopefully, I'll be able to make them. I'm not sure I will because that is how I was taught to play the game. I guess we'll see what happens with that."
Increasingly pass-happy offenses have put pressure on defenses to counter with better coverage players. NFC West teams have turned back the clock with some of the biggest, hardest-hitting safeties around. Seattle's Kam Chancellor and Arizona's Adrian Wilson are both 6-foot-3 and around 230 pounds. San Francisco's Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner joined Chancellor in repeatedly delivering heavy hits.
The league fined Chancellor $60,000 over a three-week period for hits last season. Wilson, heavily fined in past seasons, drew a $7,500 fine for roughing the quarterback against San Francisco late in the season. Whitner sent New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas out of the game with a concussion during the playoffs. The $25,000 fine Goldson drew against Arizona was for fighting, not an illegal hit. He consistently put the hurt on opponents in 2011, once drawing a disputed penalty for a hit on Cleveland's Greg Little.
Barron, meanwhile, heads toward the draft as the only safety expected to challenge for first-round status. According to SI.com, Barron won Alabama's 5A state titles in the shot put and triple jump, plus third in the long jump. Barron said he threw the shot 59 feet, covered about 47 feet in the triple jump and 23 in the long jump.
The SI.com piece said Barron was playing youth football by age six (on the defensive line) and could dunk a basketball by eighth grade.
The shot put title seemed least likely given Barron's size. He measured 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds at the combine.
"That is something I take pride in," Barron said. "The shot put was always a lot of big guys, and I was always the smallest one. I used to go out there and beat all of them."