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A wider NFL field?
October 20, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode
We haven't read the whole Internet, but we haven't seen anyone so far who's done a good job in explaining why widening the NFL field might help with vicious hits. (And we're not necessarily advocating the move, just hoping it's explained properly in discussions about the violence issue.)
A wider field is not just about creating more room. It’s about the relative position of the hash marks and how that affects placement of the football and the relative motion of the players. The NFL’s wide hash marks create more “middle” of the field and the middle is where violent hits occur because you are more likely to have bodies moving in opposite directions. Hence, the stigma about "going over the middle" in the NFL.
A skeptic might say the increase in potential for violence is why the NFL widened its hash marks to begin with.
Outside the hash marks, you are more likely to have bodies moving in parallel or near parallel paths and that results in more glancing type hits. And obviously, you still have the sideline as a supposed safe area. It's not that you can't have a huge hit outside the hash marks, they're just less likely.
Of course, there would be other consequences from widening the field. Most notably, it could make the option play more effective in the NFL. And, of course, it would cost millions of dollars to alter stadiums and the potential is there to lose some seating. For that reason, as much as any, it's unlikely such a change could come quickly.
It's also interesting to ponder whether such a move would be considered a rules change, which the NFL could make on its own, or a collective bargaining item, perhaps offered as a chip by the owners to offset the increase in regular season games.