Bruce Arians would like expanded replay, more practice time
PHOENIX — You would have thought that of all people, Bruce Arians would have been pushing for the NFL to change the rule that allowed players to leap over the line of scrimmage on extra point and field goal attempts.
It not being banned did kind of impact his team’s 2016 season, and part of the NFL’s competition committee, the Cardinals’ head coach has a voice in the room.
The rule did change — plays like that are now illegal — and yet, Arians said he didn’t do much to make it happen.
“Philadelphia actually put that in,” he said at the NFC Coaches Breakfast Wednesday at the Arizona Biltmore. “And the players, that was the No. 1 thing that they wanted out of the game for safety reasons.
“Because at the end of the year, guys were landing. There was gonna be a broken neck sooner or later. So I didn’t have to say a word about that one.”
The change for those such plays was one of many the league’s owners approved during the league meetings in Phoenix. Others include banning crackback blocks by a backfield player who goes in motion, creating an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for someone who commits multiple fouls during the same down while trying to manipulate the game clock, stronger penalties for egregious hits and centralized replay review.
Arians, who joined the competition committee last summer, said he enjoyed being part of it. He was not a quite member, he noted, saying he did not believe Commissioner Roger Goodell would have wanted him in the room just to fade into the background.
“No, I don’t have any problem giving my opinion, especially when it comes to rules and referees,” Arians noted.
In terms of which of the rule changes Arians likes the best, he pointed to the tweak to the replay system. Whereas before an official would walk over to a monitor to review a play, now the final say will belong to the league’s head of officiating, Dean Blandino, and his staff.
“The consistency of which it should now have,” Arians praised. “I think it will be sped up for the fans and the coaches. Not having to wait for a timeout to find out what’s wrong. They’ve been doing a really good job of communicating to you. But now everything’s just gonna be sped up so fast.”
Indeed, part of the league’s goal was to try and make games go by a little more quickly. Arians pointed to how, in the past, sometimes they would come back from a commercial break only to then, soon after, go back to one.
While Arians is pleased with the new replay system, he would like to see it change even more with regards to what kind of plays can be reviewed. While that step was not taken this year, the coach said he expects it to be taken in the near future, but “it’s just not ready right now.”
“I think what we’re doing with centralization is really a great first step,” he said. “And I think it’s gonna grow as the technology gets better. Every year someone puts up a referendum to change it. Last year it was gaining speed. This year it did not catch any momentum at all, so I don’t know where it’s gonna go.”
Not surprisingly, that is not the only change Arians would like to see. He is hopeful the league will soon add some full-time referees, believing that they would be able to work multiple practices for teams they won’t be officiating and thereby stay sharp and in shape.
He would also like to see some changes in the next collective bargaining agreement — the current one, signed in 2011, runs through the 2020 season — that would allow coaches more time with their players.
“I think you’ll hear every coach say, ‘We want to be with our players more,’ whether it’s on the practice field or in life-skill sessions,” Arians said. “Teaching them things that will help them become a better citizen and a better community person, a better player.
And I think that’s the one thing the last CBA we’ve lost. Coaches are being held accountable for guys they only get to see four months.”
Arians went on about the long breaks the team has during the offseason, adding he thinks injuries are more likely to occur because not much actual football is being practiced when they are on the field. As he has done in the past, he likened what they are able to do to playing soccer.
“And a guy, especially on the lines of scrimmage, are gonna get hurt if they don’t practice what they do,” he said. “I’ve only seen two or three guys ever get hurt seriously with pads on going full speed.”
The idea that practicing more would lead to fewer injuries seems a bit counterintiutive — after all, it’s tough for a football player to get hurt when he’s not playing football. And when it comes to concussions, which has been a growing, legitimate hot-button topic. Opinions are not entirely unanimous, but research show the more hits to the head one takes, the more likely they are to develop brain issues down the road.
“I’ve got other research that says it doesn’t,” Arians said. “I’m a firm believer in you train yourself to play the sport you’re in.
“Football has inherently been risky, and that’s never gonna change, cause it’s a collision sport. The millions and millions of guys who’ve played this game and built their character from this game that are fine versus that 1 to 2 percent who aren’t fine. I don’t think you define the game over that two percent. I think you take that 98 percent that has built generals and presidents and leaders of communities that football built their character for them.”