The NFL has been participating in ongoing discussions on player safety, including searching for ways to minimize major impacts between players on the field, with an idea that many consider radical picking up steam, NBC Sports reports. The idea, which was explained by sportswriter Jeff Glazer in his weekly Q&A for The Athletic.com, is a simple one: make the field larger. Glazer says that the idea of both lengthening and widening the field of play was brought up for consideration in a discussion of player safety this year during meetings among the team owners.
“It was brought up, the players have gotten bigger, faster, stronger, and the field hasn’t gotten any bigger,” he wrote. “I don’t see anything changing but this is the first year I actually heard about that.”
Advocates for the change point out that beginning in high school, and even at some levels below that, the standard size for a football field has remained 100 yards long and 53 yards wide. However, they argue, the very best players in the game have long continued to develop, becoming progressively bigger, faster, and stronger. The field, on the other hand, has not changed to match.
The result is an increasingly dynamic, explosive, and physical game taking place in the familiar confines of the traditionally-sized field of play.
While the concept is easy enough to explain, implementing such a change could prove challenging.
Critics point out that adjusting the field size could pose a substantial challenge for teams, particularly those with stadiums where the existing field size already barely fits in the available area. In addition, mixed-use stadiums such as Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, which is home to not only the NFL’s Steelers but also plays host to college and even high school games, would obviously face challenges in accommodating all use cases.
Besides the stadium logistics, the change could have unintended consequences when it comes to the game itself. A longer field could mean less scoring, with longer drives required to make it to the end zone or to come into field-goal range.
Alternatively, suggestions have been made that the league achieve a similar effect by leaving the field the size that it is and instead simply changing the requirement that a receiver land two feet inbounds. Instead, as is the case in high school in college, requiring only one foot to come down in the field of play would have a similar practical effect to extending the boundaries of the field all the way around.