Why the NFL, NCAA ‘need each other now more than ever’ to make the game of football safer

NEW YORK – One game, one set of safety rules. That was the purpose of a summit at NFL headquarters on Tuesday, where assorted rule-making heavyweights from the NFL and the NCAA level converged to discuss the need for aligning some player protection rules for the sake of clarity, consistency and of course, safety.

 Don’t worry, NFL diehards. This wasn’t about implementing college football’s overtime rule on the pro level. But the NCAA’s protection for long snappers? Good idea.

 The exchange of ideas, data and best practices between the NFL and NCAA, which conceivably could result in rules tweaks on both levels and ultimately flow to the high school game, was undoubtedly a cooperative effort inspired by the big picture.

 “It’s a realization that we all need each other now more than ever if we’re going to make the game of football safer and very frankly, preserve it going forward,” Ray Anderson, Arizona State’s athletic director, told USA TODAY Sports.

 Anderson, previously the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, also chairs the NCAA’s football rules committee.

“We’re at a point in football where if it’s not a collaborative effort, we’re not going to convince anybody that we have a sincere intent in changing the game for the better.”

There are NFL rules that some suspect should be adopted on the college level and vice versa. Troy Vincent, the NFL’s current head of football operations, pushes for the NFL to eliminate all chop blocks, as is the case in college and high school. Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, maintains that rules for kickoffs – the play when the highest rate of football injuries occur – should be the same on all levels. Anderson likes how the NFL’s new helmet rule erased the distinction about the “crown” of the helmet to account for the entire piece of equipment.

  “A lot of confusion is created because we have different rules and different semantics,” Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, told USA TODAY Sports. “We make it hard on fans, hard on players, hard on officials.”

 There seemed to be a consensus that Tuesday’s meeting was the first in sustained series that expands on sessions annually held during the NFL scouting combine. Attendees included Rogers Redding, the NCAA’s coordinator of officials and his NFL counterpart, Al Riveron. Also: Dean Blandino, the former NFL officiating director who works as a rules analyst for Fox Sports for pro and college games; Jon Steinbrecher, the Mid-American Conference Commissioner; Steve Shaw, Southeastern Conference director of officiating; 49ers owner John York; Packers president Mark Murphy; Rick Spielman (Vikings) and Tom Telesco (Chargers), members of the NFL’s general managers advisory committee.

 No rules changes are imminent, but the seeds have been planted for offseason tweaks.

 “This meeting was long overdue,” Berry told USA TODAY Sports. “There are some common themes, as we share data points, teaching and education and all those things, to make the game safer and allow people to grow up with the same type of rule.”

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