When it comes to the NFL, safety is a hot-button issue. While it's clear that the league needs to improve upon player safety to not only protect the players themselves but to protect the league. League officials have made several rule changes over the last few seasons, many of which sound good on paper but have diminished the quality of the game. While fans can watch a huge in on a wide receiver from a safety and see clearly that it's not helmet-to-helmet contact, thanks to TV angles and instant replay, referees have a hard time telling the difference in real time, causing them to throw flags when they're not needed.
As players continue to grow bigger and faster, collisions will become more violent. One way NFL officials are thinking about attempting to curb some of the more violent hits is to increase the width of NFL fields by 35 feet, which would make them as wide as they are in the CFL.
"The farther a player has to run in terms of contact , the less ferocious the contact is going to be," Bill Polian, a former member of the NFL Competition Committee, told CBS Sports. ""We know the most ferocious hits come from guys who are ten yards apart and lay each other out. You have fewer high-power collisions in the Canadian League than here."
The Bengals' own Andrew Hawkins has not only played in the NFL, but he has spent a few seasons in the CFL as well. He agrees with Polian when it comes to the fact that a widened field would decrees the amount of big hits.
"It would prevent a lot of the severe collisions. Guys are getting faster every year. We know that. But with the NFL spacing being more confined than the CFL, there are a lot more big hits. There are a lot more tight windows. It would prevent not all, but a larger portion, of big hits," Hawkins said, via the Bengals website. "There are more big hits here. I don't care how fast you are. If a field is a certain size, you're not going to be able to get there by the time the ball gets there."
Of course, few high-power collisions could be a result of smaller and slower players as well. Even if the league does widen the field and it does make the game safer, there would be other effects, not all of them positive.
Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Mood believes that one of these effects would give offenses an unfair advantage.
"It would be hard for defenses to stop the offenses," Moon said about widening the field. "They are having a hard time stopping them now. It would be harder with a bigger field. There would be a lot more scoring, I know that. If you make the field bigger, bigger lanes, bigger areas, it would be tougher for those defensive backs to cover."
Regardless of the NFL's decision of whether or not to widen the field, the measures taken to make the game safer needs to change so it doesn't effect the quality of the game. Obviously that is much easier said than done, though. In the end, the players on the field know that their sport isn't the safest they can play and a concussion, or even repeated concussions, are likely a price they're willing to pay to play their favorite game for money.