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CFL eyes taking further action against cut blocks

CFL director of officiating Tom Higgins and the league's rules committee are discussing reducing cut blocks.

While new helmet rules are creating controversy south of the border, the CFL's eyeing a safety-based rule change of its own—but with regard to cut blocks. The league had previously banned blocks below the waist on special-teams plays and passes beyond the line of scrimmage, but now its rules committee is looking at prohibiting "all blocks below the waist, or 'low blocks', unless they are executed between the tackles along the line of scrimmage by interior linemen or by other stationary players three yards on other side of the tackles." Interestingly enough, that's the opposite direction from the NFL, which is also trying to reduce cut blocks, but opted to make blocks below the waist illegal in the tackle box instead of outside of it. The leagues' intentions are similar, though, as they're both trying to reduce the numbers of low blocks, and that seems like a laudable idea.

Cut blocks have been part of football for a long time, but they're a part of the game that's often seen as dangerous. The technique involves hitting a defender below the knees, and that can frequently lead to knee or leg injuries. They've stirred plenty of CFL controversies in the past, so it's not all that surprising that the league's looking to further reduce the prevalence of cut blocks. However, it is interesting that they're going with preventing low blocks in the open field but keeping them inside the tackle box, the opposite approach of the NFL. That may lead to a lesser reduction in terms of total cut blocks.

The CFL tends to feature more plays outside the tackle box than the NFL thanks to the bigger field, so this will certainly have an impact if it is approved. It's also perhaps even more advantagous to cut-block an opponent outside of the tackle box, as pulling guards and tackles don't tend to have many supporting blockers around them; taking an opponent to the ground with a cut-block may be even more beneficial on a run outside, as a conventional block might allow them to spin around the blocker and bring down the running back. It's interesting that the NFL's more willing to allow those outside cut blocks, though; while those opportunities to cut block may be more efficient, they tend to be lesser in numbers. Thus, the NFL may wind up reducing the total numbers of cut blocks in its league further.

Like the helmet rule, though, this divergence could provide a good opportunity for the CFL to observe how things go south of the border. If banning cut blocks inside the tackle box proves effective for the NFL, then perhaps the CFL will consider adding those to their prohibited list as well. If that doesn't really do much, then perhaps only banning cut blocks outside the box will be enough. This is a good start for the CFL, though, and it's interesting that they're already considering expanding the cut block ban. That may prove extremely beneficial for player safety, even if it still isn't a complete solution.

(Other proposed rule changes being discussed include using video replays on extra points and field goals, allowing both of a team's timeouts to be used at any point in a game instead of one per half, letting a player without a helmet catch a pass but blowing the play dead once he catches it and changing pass interference from a spot foul to a specific penalty with an automatic first down.)

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