NFL may target offensive players on head-hunting

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NFL may target offensive players on head-hunting

According to The Concussion Blog, through Week 12 of the NFL 127 concussionshead injuries had been diagnosed and reported. Every team in the league has had at least one player suffer a concussion, with Atlanta and Houston (1) the least affected, and the Raiders (9) hit hardest.
But while fines, rule changes and even game suspensions have been handed down to players leading with their helmets on defenseless offensive players, the numbers between offense and defense concussions are closer than most think.
Through Week 12, 70 offensive players have been diagnosed, compared with 57 defensive players.
Defensive backs have suffered the most concussions (32), followed by wide receivers (24), linebackers and running backs (15), running backs (14), tight ends (13), offensive linemen (12), defensive linemen (10), and lastly, quarterbacks (7).
It's no surprise that wide receivers and defensive backs lead the league in diagnosed concussions, as the game becomes faster and the passing game continues to take over.
And while many of the league's strict rule changes and overall culture change in how defenders attack offensive players are set to ensure the safety of the defenders, too, the numbers tell a story that offensive players can also pack a punch.
In an exclusive on OnMilwaukee.com, Jim Owczarski received an email statement from Greg Aiello, the NFL's senior vice president of public relations, saying "helmet-to-helmet contact between a runner and defender (especially in the open field) will be reviewed in the off-season by the Competition Committee."
A rule handed down by the NFL could follow suit of that which the NCAA has, stating that "No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul." (Section 1. Personal Fouls, Article 3)
Owczarski interviewed several Green Bay Packers, who said most offensive players lower their head to protect their bodies and make contact with their shoulders, not to intentionally go after defenders.
Concerns over whether offensive players not being able to lower their heads would slow the game down, make players more timid to protect themselves and potentially result in more injuries not related to the head.
The concussion rules are sure to be changed, improved and changed again over the coming years, but adding the new wrinkle to offensive players being subject to personal foul penalties for hits on "defenseless defenders" or review from the NFL after the games would be a major change.
What are your thoughts on this potential move from the Competition Committee?

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The Blackhawks were finally getting healthy and now may be missing a key player once again. That depends on how Niklas Hjalmarsson feels after suffering an upper-body injury against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

It was certainly the toughest part of the Blackhawks' victory, a 6-3 triumph that has the Blackhawks closing in on the Wild. We'll see what the Hjalmarsson update is over the weekend. Until then, let's look at the notables from this one.

What Worked: The offense. We'll give an honorable mention to the penalty kill, which snuffed out all of the Coyotes' chances including a double minor that overlapped the second and third periods. But the offense was just buzzing again. Here's another shocker: the top line is still working just fine. The trio got things started with Nick Schmaltz's goal just 37 seconds into the game (Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik assisted). And much like in their meeting with the Coyotes earlier this month, the Blackhawks needed just about every bit of that offense. While we're on this topic...

What Didn't Work: The first-period defense. The Blackhawks looked like they were in good shape up 3-1 but then they gave up two goals within a minute late in the period. Michal Rozsival had a rough start in his first game since Jan. 15, but overall, the Blackhawks' defense through that first period looked discombobulated. Obviously, it didn't help that the Blackhawks lost Hjalmarsson during the first, either.

[RELATED: Patrick Kane nets hat trick as Blackhawks cruise past Coyotes]

Star of the game: Patrick Kane. One game after Jonathan Toews recorded a hat trick Kane did the same, scoring his 21st, 22nd and 23rd goals of the season. On a night in which the Blackhawks dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen, Kane got a little extra playing time. His first goal came on a first-period shift with Ryan Hartman and Tanner Kero, the second off a long pass from Brent Seabrook and the third with his usual line mates.

He Said It: "I didn't play much before I got hurt, then I missed four weeks with my injury. It wasn't easy but definitely the way the team's playing now, it made it easier for me. It felt like the first game of the season for me but glad we got the victory and glad I was back playing. I enjoyed it." — Michal Rozsival on returning to the Blackhawks' lineup. 

By the Numbers: 

6 – Number of times, in their last eight games, the Blackhawks have scored five or more goals.

342 – Assists for Jonathan Toews, who tied Dennis Hull for 12th all-time in franchise history in that category.

35 – Combined points for the Blackhawks' top liners Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik in their nine games together. The breakdown in those nine games: Toews has 16 points, Panik 10 and Schmaltz nine.

1997 – The last time the Blackhawks had hat tricks in back-to-back regular-season games. Alexei Zhamnov and Eric Daze had them on April 11 and April 13, 1997, respectively.