The NFL is going to require knee and thigh pads in 2013 following measures adopted this week by the leagues Competition Committee. The players dont particularly like the idea, and the reason raises an interesting thought.
The simple assumption is that the pads are intended to protect knees and thighs. They probably are, although when linemen and others want to protect knees, they wear big, hinged contraptions that do far more than any pad.
But players have opined that the pads slow them down in a sport that places a premium on speed. That is significant.
Simple physics say that speed is an exponentially greater factor in force than mass. In football terms, if you slow the players down, you diminish the force delivered, and that takes down the impact.
When race tracks want to slow horses down for handicapping purposes, they use weight. Its an equalizer.
The difference on a football field isnt likely to be especially perceptible. All players will have basically the same handicap.
But will it slow a defensive back reacting up to hit a receiver coming across the middle? Probably a little. Will it slow a running back slightly as he drives into a tackler? Probably a little.
Backs and receivers will claim the added weight and encumbrance reduces their escapability. Linebackers and DBs will object to anything that slows their closing on a target. (O- and D-linemen are probably over in the corner smiling).
Nothing will materially affect head injuries, for instance, until theres a culture change, and that takes more than a Competition Committee mandate.
But if injuries are the result of the familiar players are just bigger and faster now, something that makes them a little less faster, by their own accounts, makes for some interesting possible adjustments.