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NFL May Make Field Wider to Better Player Safety

February 12th, 2013 at 9:00 AM
By Paul Lane Sabres 101
The National Football League is considering widening its field in time for play next season.
 
'Bills/Jets, WIN!' photo (c) 2012, Nick Quaranto - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
 
The National Football Post reported the league is looking to take on CFL dimensions, expanding the field from 160 feet wide to 195 feet. The thought is a wider playing surface would give players more room and create fewer severe collisions.
 
Former Buffalo Bills General Manager Bill Polian, who also was an executive in the CFL, said the idea has merit:
"I’m not so sure we shouldn’t think about widening the field. It’s a radical idea, but I think it’s worth thinking about. 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."
Aside from potentially making the game safer – which is questionable because players could, in fact, build up more speed with more room and make even harder hits – a wider field could increase scoring. Although other rules such as one-point end zone plays and 12 men on the field contribute to this, the CFL had an average 51.8 points per game in its 2012 season, compared to 45.6 for the NFL. The wider surface gives receivers more room to evade defensive backs and running backs more room to extend plays rather than being run out of bounds.
 
But this is all still very much in the "if" stage. Stadiums, for starters, are mostly built to precisely cram fields in at their current dimension, so rows of seats would have torn out, costing teams both in construction costs and in lost ticket sales. Then there's the fact that venues such as Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium are used for high school playoff games, and the conversion between the two would be challenging.
 
But the league has taken a major public relations hit in terms of its lack of action regarding player safety. And if the first major change to the field configuration in nearly 40 years could keep a player or two off a stretcher, it's worth considering.
Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Bills, Football, NFL

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