During Sunday's NFL matchups, players on both sides of the ball seemed to be on their best behavior — even to be a bit "tentative" at moments, reports the New York Times. The games were the first since the NFL announced it would start suspending players who initiate "devastating hits." Overall, yesterday's tackling was tame in comparison to the many skull-rattling hits dealt out a week ago. But after the games, debate continued to rage over the NFL's new rules, with players, fans, and commentators arguing that the league has quickly gone from celebrating its big-hit culture to overenforcing rules and sapping the game of the aggression that makes it enjoyable to watch. What's the right balance between safety and entertainment? (Watch a Fox News discussion about the new rules)

Devastating hits are just part of the game: "As someone who played in the N.F.L. for six years, I'm all for reducing reckless play as much as possible," says Nate Jackson at The New York Times. But banning concussion-inducing tackles is unrealistic, since "there are probably six or seven helmet-to-helmet hits on every play in the N.F.L." Suspensions and fines are "knee-jerk public-relations reactions." Football is a violent game by design, so "the only way to prevent head injuries in football is no more football."
"The NFL's head cases"

The NFL is doing the right thing: "The NFL got it right," says Barry Wilner at AP. You can "argue all you want about changing the game fundamentally," but by imposing stricter punishments, "the league did something necessary and long overdue." Just take a look at the injury list: "22 players listed at some point this season with a concussion, 19 with head injuries, 16 with neck injuries." If players tackle cleanly, "then fine. If they are of the head-hunting variety, hefty discipline is warranted." Kudos.
"NFL gets it right on suspensions"

Actually, they haven't gotten serious yet: During NFL broadcasts just two years ago, "multiple announcers cackled in delight during a weekly montage of players getting laid out with hard hits," says Bill Simmons at ESPN. Now, league commissioner Roger Goodell is attempting to "position [himself] as the Sheriff of Player Safety" even as "he's pushing for an 18-game regular season that would lead to more injuries, more concussions." The right thing for Goodell to do? Just "admit that [his] players have gotten too big and too fast," then think about long-term fixes — like shortening the season.
"October Mailbag"