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NFL considering additional protection for defensive players’ knees

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: A referee reaches down to pick up a penalty flag during the second half of New England’s 27-24 win over the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

Winslow Townson

When the NFL institutes new rules designed to protect quarterbacks and receivers, defensive players often ask, “What about us?” This year, the NFL isn’t considering any new rules designed to protect quarterbacks or receivers -- but is considering a rule to protect defensive players.

That rule is a simple two-word addition to the rulebook that will likely save the knees of some defensive linemen and linebackers. The words “or side” would be added to the rule that says players can’t block an opponent in the back of the legs.

This rule is long overdue. A defensive player shouldn’t have to worry about his knee getting blown out by a block he can’t see coming. Just as defensive players have been taught to lower their targets and not hit offensive players in the head, offensive players can be told to raise their targets when blocking from the side and hit the midsection, not the knees.

The owners will vote on the proposal at next week’s league meeting. It would be a major surprise if the proposal doesn’t pass.