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|NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell checks to make sure the officials keep tabs on the new rules.|
The Saints' bounty scandal may be yesterday's news, but the NFL's push to change the culture of football has only just begun. The league will take many more measures in the coming months and years aimed at making football safer.
Here are a few headlines we are likely to see:
Fearing lawsuits by former players over debilitating knee injuries sustained during their football careers, the NFL has banned all tackles below the waist.
"If a player's mental faculties are fine after his playing career, does it really matter if he is unable to use his body and truly enjoy his life after football?" said a league spokesman. "We must strive to protect the whole player -- mind and body."
Kick returns remain one of the most dangerous plays in football, with 22 players running into full-speed collisions all over the field. The league hopes to see all kick return-related injuries finally put to an end by moving kickoffs up to the 50-yard line.
"Barring a headwind of near-hurricane levels, no kick will ever be returned," said a league spokesman. "This is great for the sport of football."
The NFL has also banned onside kicks.
For years many NFL players have returned to action just moments after taking a blow to the head. No more. The league will now require that all players sit out for three hours of testing if their helmet is hit by another player or if it makes contact with the ground.
"It's the only way to take the decision to play completely out of the players' hands," said a league spokesman. "If they pass all of the tests and the game is still going on two hours later, then they are free to return to the game. But only for one play. Then they will receive an additional hour of observation."
The league will also conduct random cognition tests to players during games.
"Just because no one saw a player get hit in the head does not mean such a blow did not occur," said the league spokesman. "So in order to protect our players, we will be pulling seemingly uninjured players out of action throughout every game for our three-hour baseline test. If they are proven to have been fine all along, they will be allowed to re-enter the game."
In the wake of several high-profile quarterbacks sustaining injuries this season, the NFL is seeking to do away with all contract incentives that reward defensive plays -- such as sacks, forced fumbles and tackles -- stating that "defensive plays are often violent and violence leads to injury. Therefore, contract incentives that reward defensive plays reward violence, essentially making them bounties."
With shots to the head and lower body banned throughout the NFL, the torso has become the new target for defensive players. But a panel of leading medical experts today advised NFL executives that the human torso contains many organs vital to life and health -- the heart, lungs, kidney and liver, among others.
"It's obvious that we can't allow our players to be hit in the vital organs. They are, well ... vital," read a league statement. "From now on, tackles targeting the vital organs are banned."
The new rules now mean players cannot be hit in the head, mid-section or lower body. But the NFL insists the quality of play will not suffer.
"Our medical experts tell us that the spleen is fairly worthless," said a league spokesman. "So players must direct their contact at the spleen, leaving them a generous two-inch by two-inch contact zone along the lower side of the left rib cage."
Any defensive players who make contact with non-spleen areas will be subject to immediate ejection, as well as a suspension and fine.
Despite the league's best efforts, many football fans still enjoy the contact and violence that was long provided by the sport. But starting today, the NFL has instructed stadium security to eject fans who cheer for tackles, saying it "promotes a blood-thirsty, mob-like mentality evoking the debauchery of the Roman Colosseum."
The league did not stop there with its attempt to change the culture of the sport. League broadcasters will no longer be permitted to show replays of illegal tackles that miss the spleen zone.
"We require that the camera be turned away when a fan runs onto the field so as to not encourage other fans to do the same," said a league spokesman. "This is no different. We do not care to promote illegal play."
The NFL also announced that Steelers-Ravens rivalry will be canceled for its "willful glorification of contact" and informed EA Sports that the Madden franchise must now feature nothing but offensive drills or lose its license with the league.
"Violence on pixels that look like humans is barely different than violence on regular humans," said a league spokesman. "Especially with how lifelike games are today."
The spleen may not be integral to life, but it does play an important role in the immune system, the NFL stressed today.
"We must protect our players' spleens," said a league spokesman. "Therefore, from this day forward, after each quarter, players on each team will line up on their sideline to undergo a quick battery of spleen tests. Then play will resume for the next quarter. While this may slow the game somewhat, fans will no doubt be happy to know that players aren't putting their spleens in danger for entertainment."
"Being truly healthy is more than just being well physically," an NFL spokesman said today. "Emotional well-being is important, too, and many players suffer great emotional anguish over losing football games."
And with that, the NFL announced that the league will no longer keep score of its games.
"The satisfaction that comes with doing your best and having fun is the best win of all," said the spokesman.
Also, each player will receive a participation ribbon at the conclusion of games.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was injured today when he fell down a slippery slope. The commissioner was not seriously hurt and is expected to recover fully, but he has said he will "seek to ban slippery slopes before others are hurt."
Years after the XFL debuted and folded after one season, XFL2's opening week packed stadiums and drew huge TV ratings.
"I really liked their style of play. It was so exciting," said one young fan. "The 'tackling,' I think they call it. And when the man who was trying to throw the ball was hit? That was the craziest thing I've ever seen. I love the XFL2!"
DJ Gallo is the founder of SportsPickle.com. He has written a book and written for Comedy Central, The Onion and ESPN The Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @DJGalloESPN.
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