NEW YORK, NY–In the wake of yet another brutal head injury, the NFL is again facing criticisms about its handling of concussions. The concerns are nothing new, though urgency to prioritize player health and safety is reaching new highs following the recent beheading of former Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. But, rather than skirt around the issue like usual, the NFL appears intent on making things right in the future.
On Saturday, Commissioner Roger Goodell issued guidance to the league’s 32 teams, outlining a massive overhaul of their concussion protocol. Among the new rules, spikes must be removed from helmet tops, guns are no longer allowed in the red zone or during the final two minutes of either half, and decapitation at any time will result in an immediate ejection. Most notably, any player suspected of having a concussion must navigate the rigorous ‘How many fingers am I holding up?’ test. Traditionally, players get five attempts at guessing the correct number of fingers and re-enter the game, but new rules allot only four guesses.
“I’m not saying I don’t support it, but it does make my job harder. I have some serious doubts about the players’ ability to play with this over-correction,” an anonymous NFL head coach shared. “Four guesses? Clearly, whoever made this rule has never been on the gridiron. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t even guess the right number in less than five guesses. I actually thought they were going to bump us up to a six-guess allowance. That’s how messed up this all is. How am I supposed to field a team? Like, at least add in a lifeline or an ask the audience thing. There’s more to life than not having brain damage.”
The new concussion protocol will not apply to the playoffs.