The NFL has went through some lengths to make professional football safer, but many still believe more can be done. The XFL was the first professional football league that showed us more safety precautions could be taken and implemented to reduce collision.
The XFL kickoff is a prime example of how the league innovated player safety during it’s 5 weeks of play. One person who helped usher in the XFL Kickoff was Dean Blandino.
Prior to his role as Head of XFL Officiating, he was involved in organizing instant replay when it was introduced to the NFL in 1999, and held roles as the director of officiating and Vice President of Officiating in the NFL.
He also thought the XFL created a new way for the sport of football to be played safely, and thought the league did a great deal of research when developing the rules.
“What was great about the entire rule process is that a number of football people were involved, they spoke with several people in football and fans.”
He also believed that the league not only provided a second chance to players, but also officials and other people involved in the sports world.
“It was an opportunity for the players and it was also a great opportunity for the officials to get tape out there. We had a number of officials in the XFL that are now officials in the NFL, so you may see some familiar faces on Sundays. “
I also asked Blandino, if there were any rules the league possibly had on the table that could help reduce high impact head to head collisions other than the kickoff, but were not approved.
“There were a couple that we were thinking about initially but ultimately decided not to go with, one was not allowing offensive linemen to be in three point stance. All of the linemen would have to be in a two point stance more of a passing posture. From a player safety perspective, it would have been interesting to see if that could have eliminated head to head collision contact that happens at the line scrimmage.”
Blandino also mentioned a one yard neutral zone, which the rule would have the defensive line line up one yard away from the line scrimmage to also help reduce head to head collision.
Blandino also spoke about the importance of the sky judge in the XFL.
“We felt it made it a lot of sense to have a person upstairs with access to video to assist the officials to get calls right. The game is so fast and it happens very quickly and it’s tough to officiate in some situations, so if you could have the video to get some of those game changing calls right, we felt that was a good thing.
I also asked him the likelihood that we see a sky judge in the NFL.
“The NFL wanted to do an experiment in the preseason this year, but unfortunately they did not have a preseason because of Covid, but I think they’re seriously considering that. I think you’re going to see some form of a sky judge in the near future.”
Blandino is also excited about the future the direction, and the new owners of the XFL and that he would still love to be involved with the league.
“You couldn’t ask for a better group of people like Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia to be owners of this league. I am excited about it’s potential and I hope I can be involved.”
“I don’t know when it will all start back up again, but I look forward to the XFL coming back.”
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