Players' safety is Roger Goodell's code name for money, and all the owners know it.
NFL owners know they're selling tickets because of their quarterbacks. They know they're selling jerseys because of their quarterbacks. They know they're grabbing headlines because of their quarterbacks.
This is a quarterback-driven league.
Just look at last year's Super Bowl. What were three of the four biggest stories? Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco and Alex Smith, who was nothing more than a backwards-hat-wearing benchwarmer, (the other big story was of course the Harbaughs) even though both offenses went through running backs Frank Gore and Ray Rice.
So when Goodell says he's making the game safer, he actually means he's making it easier for the quarterbacks to sling the ball all over the field while compiling 400 yards through the air and winning a 45-42 shootout.
He led with his shoulder. He stayed away from Cumberland's head. And he didn't leave his feet. But it was a big hit that jarred the ball loose and eliminated a big pass play, therefore it must be penalized.
Officials said Cumberland was a "defenseless receiver."
So Goldson was supposed to let him catch the ball for about a 30-plus yard completion and a first down inside his own 30-yard line?
Receivers are supposed to be scared when they run across the middle. Coaches are supposed to fear for his receiver's well-being every time he calls a crossing route or a post.
But these kind of penalties are eliminating a defensive player's intimidation factor and providing the quarterback and receiver more real estate to work with.
The last three years of rule changes were in the "name of players' safety."
In the name of players' safety, runners are no longer able to lower their head. That was the rule change for this year. It doesn't matter that running backs have to lower their head in order to lower their shoulders. This means the running backs will have to run upright through the hole, which can lead to injury. Just imagine Patrick Willis running full speed at a back standing even slightly upright.
In other words, throw the ball or risk injury to your back.
In 2012, crack blocks were done away with.
In 2011, defensive players were penalized 15 yards for leaving their feet and the definition, according to the Official Playing Rules and Casebook, of a defenseless receiver was broadened to:
"...those [players] throwing a pass; attempting or completing a catch without having time to ward off or avoid contact; a runner whose forward progress has been stopped by a tacker; kickoff or punt returners while the ball is in the air; kickers or punters during a kick or a return; a quarterback during a change of possession; a player who receives a blindside block from a blocker moving toward his own end zone."
Then there's the strict pass interference calls, which are overly-thrown flags every week. There's at least one a game that will make you scratch your head and say to yourself, "I don't see it."
The sum of all these rule changes are 21 4,000-plus yard passers and four 5,000-plus yard passers the past two seasons. (There were only two 5,000-yard passers in the history of the game before the start of the 2011 season.)
But quarterbacks and high-powered offenses make money and owners happy. To appease the owners, Goodell will to turn the NFL into a game of backyard football using the code word "players' safety."