George Guido: New rules by national federation designed with football safety in mind

Saturday, July 30, 2022 | 5:12 PM

Football players’ safety was paramount in the eyes of rulesmakers from the National Federation of State High School Associations when planning seven changes for the upcoming season.

Several tweaks to existing rules regarding “grounding” and “chop blocks” will take place.

Now, a player purposely can throw an incomplete forward pass, provided the passer is outside “the pocket” (lateral boundary of the free-blocking zone) and the pass reaches the neutral zone or the extension of the neutral zone beyond the sideline.

Also, the chop block has been redefined. The move now is described as “a combination block by two or more teammates against an opponent other than the runner, with or without delay, where one of the blocks is below the waist and one above the waist.”

Up to now, a player’s knee was considered to be the high and low components of a chop block.

“With these rules changes, the committee showed once again its focus on minimizing risk in high school football,” said Bob Colgate, NFHS director of sports and medicine. “By expanding the parameters of a legal forward pass and redefining the chop block so it can be more easily detected by game officials, the committee has taken measures to mitigate two potentially risky situations within the game.”

In a minor change, players will be allowed to wear number 0. I always thought wearing 0 is a symbol for nothingness. But when Al Oliver, one of the most underrated players in baseball history, was traded to the Montreal Expos, he wore 0, which he said was actually an “O” for Oliver.

So who will be the first football player in Alle-Kiski Valley history to wear the number 0?

State associations such as the PIAA now can choose to extend the sideline team boxes beyond the traditional 50-yard expanse between the 25-yard-lines as long as both teams are allowed to use the same increases. A rules tweak also allows states the freedom to decide which individuals can access the extended area.

It also will be a little easier for quarterbacks who return to the sidelines to get the next play.

In two clock management changes, any foul committed within the last two minutes of either half automatically will result in the offended team’s option to start the game clock on the snap. Before this, the offended team was required to accept the opponent’s penalty to further control the game clock.

An exception to this clarifies the necessary conditions for an abbreviated 25-second play clock after a stoppage of play. Now, a new rule mandates that a 40-second play clock be employed after a foul committed only by the defensive team.

Finally, any game official — not just the referee — can order the ball be changed between downs.

The rules changes were made at a conference near the NFHS headquarters in Indianapolis in late January.

Something I was unaware of: Nationwide, there were 1,039,828 high school football players. That figure included 2,604 girls.

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