You Won't recognise The NFL In 2020

Jason Witten runs with his helmet off

For the NFL to survive as long-term business, it has to do something about the post-career health of its players.

Fans, the media – and lots of lawyers – will no longer ignore stories of how, at relatively young ages, retired players live in poverty and can’t remember the teams they played for.  NFL veterans are 800% more likely to develop ALS than the average person.

There will be lawsuits. There will be scandals. Things have to change.

Already, they are.

Click here to peek into the future and see the NFL in 2020 >>

The problem is an obvious one: professional football as its currently played is a brutal sport – one that leads to damaged brains and broken spines.

Over the weekend, Rutgers DT Eric LeGrand snapped his spine covering a kick off return. At least six NFL players left games due to wicked blows to the head.  Just a couple years ago, Bills tight end Kevin Everett broke his neck trying to bust through a block.

Yesterday, the NFL responded by changing its rules to ban “devastating hits.” Fans hate the new rule. One friend of mine wants to know when tackling will get banned. “It hurts too much,” he says.

But fans better get used to it.

Not only will the NFL be forced to protect itself from liabilities related to its players’ health, the league also wants to make sure its biggest stars have long, endorsement-rich careers.

Rest assured – we believe the NFL will look very different 10 years from now.

The NFL banned them yesterday. There go stadium-wide OHHHHHs after big hits in the secondary. Also: titling highlight reels just got a lot harder.

No more kick-off returns.

The two most brutal recent injuries in football -- Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand's spine break and Bills tight end Kevin Everett's neck injury -- happened during kickoff returns. In 2020, the NFL might just have offenses start at the 20 every time.

No more helmets.

Helmets are supposed to protect players. But instead, they're used as weapons.

If NFL teams practiced without helmets, players might not learn how to do that.

The NFL could go further and just take helmets away on Sundays; hits would immediately get softer. A bonus: more marketable players with more recognisable faces.

By 2020, there may no longer be quarterback sacks.

If a quarterback sack resulted in just an incomplete pass -- and not a loss of yardage -- you can bet the players who are the faces of the league would undergo far fewer injuries.

By 2020, all punts could have to be fair caught.

Like field goals, punts would become all about the attempted block.

No more hitting QBs, punters, and kickers

Kickers, punters, and QBs could wear blaze orange jerseys, signifying them as un-hittable players who are downed by touch only.

There will be weight restrictions for different positions.

Imagine if only players weighing under 230 pounds were allowed to cover kicks -- or if safeties had to weigh less than receivers. Force = Mass X Acceleration.

No more blindside blocks on defenders.

Hines Ward is the king of blocks defenders never saw coming. By 2020, these blindside blocks to the head of a defender might be illegal.

No more leaving feet on tackles.

Defenders who leave their feet on tackles have poor fundamentals. They often miss tackles. But when they do connect, its often brutal. By 2020, this could be a penalty.

All shotgun all the time.

Some coaches put their quarterbacks in the shotgun formation to give them an extra second to throw the ball before getting hit. By 2020, all offensive plays might start in the formation.

That's 2020…but in 2011, there might not even be an NFL season

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