Little Lebowski Urban Achiever
This one is simple to me. First, there is a minor one... hitting a quarterback, even slightly in the head, with your hand should not be a penalty. There are a few that are violent, but for the most part its pretty obvious that the player who is getting hurt is the the defensive players hand and not the quarterbacks head. When hand meets helmet....helmet wins.
More importantly, I believe the rules prohibiting defensive players from impeding wide receivers and tight ends after five yards of contact with even minimal contact is doing a true disservice to the illusion of improving player safety. Lets be real, the league is not interested in improving player safety, they are interested in asset protection. There is a difference. The NFL is driven by scoring points. Across the board, regardless of sport, if you increase scoring... you increase the interest of non-die hard fans, and these additional casual fans are the driving force for increasing the popularity of the game.
When the NFL decided that it was going to truly allow offense to dominate through the air, while simultaneously attempting to increase player safety, they hit a major cross roads. By allowing receivers to run freely through the defensive backfield, the game changed forever in favor of offense. However, what they didnt account for was what happened as a result of all this free movement. By giving these ultra gifted athletes a 'free release', all of the sudden they are running at full stride almost at will around the field. The defensive players are also roaming freely with limited contact to slow them down. What happens when two all world athletes are running at full speed and collide?....destruction.
The allowance of the old rules to impede offensive players, allowed them to slow them down. I know it sounds obvious, but that changes everything. Two players hitting each other at 70% of their respective optimum speeds (totally arbitrary number) makes an unbelievable difference compared to each of them running full speed.
The lightbulb moment for me about this was a few years ago (shortly after the rule changes i believe) was when two "little" players by NFL standards, Desean Jackson and Dunta Robinson collided for one of the most violent hits in recent memory. Dunta was levied a fine, which I believe was totally unwarranted. Dunta absolutely lowers his head, but if you notice, all the contact comes from his shoulder into Desean's chest... a legal hit. The issue is that desean was a "defenseless receiver". So the question truly becomes, why is desean, and other receivers, defenseless? The answer is because the rules have been tinkered to allow these situations to become more and more prevalent. You aren't allowed to touch a receiver, everyone is freely running at high speeds, the reaction times now went from being incredibly small windowed to now nearly instantaneous.
I will admit I am a more traditionalist in the sense that I believe football was designed as a barbaric and brutal game. I do not believe there is any way to make football "safe", much like there is no way to make boxing safe. But just like boxers are two consenting adults, the players ,outside of some of the quarterbacks, are against these protection rules. It is taking away from the spirit of the game, and they acknowledge that this is what they signed up to do. Desean Jackson after the crushing hit when asked about the hit said somemthing along the lines of, this is football, I signed up to be a football player, don't take the hitting out.
The NFL's own ambition for points is also one of the contributing factors to hellacious hits and concussions being sustained on a nearly gamely basis. Combine that with the fact that players are truly as big, fast, and strong as ever.... and you have a formula for frustrated players, frustrated fans, seriously injured players, but more points... and in the end thats all the NFL is concerned with.