NFL Field Change Weighed; Widening by 35 Feet Aimed at Concussion Safety

Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013 08:38 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Could a wider and longer football field be what the National Football League needs to improve safety conditions and renew national interest?

This is the question some NFL observers are asking as the league attempts to recast its violent image.

The NFL Competition Committee, an eight-member board that consists of head coaches and managers that oversee competition and suggest rule changes, flirted with the idea last year. The alteration would make the fields more similar to those in the Canadian Football League.

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Current NFL football fields have a width of 53.5 yards and a length of 120 yards, which includes two end zones that are 10 yards deep on each end. By contrast, Canadian football fields are 65 yards wide and 150 yards long.

If implemented, some of the changes to the game would be more scoring, and more importantly, fewer high-speed, damaging collisions between players.

"It’s a radical idea, but I think it’s worth thinking about," former competition committee member Bill Polian told the National Football Post. "You would have more space and perhaps a safer game. I say that based on my CFL experience. There are less collisions of that type in the Canadian game."

Polian is a former general manager who built championship teams in both the CFL and NFL.

Some argue that a wider field could lead to more high-speed collisions, as defensive players would have more of a running start before tackling, but Polian doesn’t see it that way.

"The farther a player has to run in terms of contact, the less ferocious the contact is going to be," Polian said. "We know the most ferocious hits come from guys who are ten yards apart and lay each other out. You have fewer higher power collisions in the Canadian League than here."

Hall of Fame Quarterback Warren Moon, who is now retired, agrees with Polian. Before he came to the NFL, Moon played in the CFL for six years. He said he saw fewer head-to-head collisions in the CFL than he did in the NFL.

The NFL has not made any official statement suggesting it is considering changing field size.

The idea comes at a time when the public has expressed concerns about the safety of the sport, contributing to a shrinking talent pool, and an overall declining interest.

Presently, the NFL is the most popular American sport, generating $9.5 billion annually, mostly through advertising, in 2012.

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