How the Forward Pass Saved Football


With football now dominated by rocket-armed quarterbacks and fleet-footed receivers, it’s hard to imagine the sport without the forward pass. The play, however, was illegal for nearly four decades after the sport’s inception. When passing was finally permitted in 1906, to improve player safety, critics predicted it would dilute the sport’s  rugged essence and drive away fans. But it had the opposite effect.

In football’s early years, yardage was tough to acquire; points were even scarcer. Wearing little padding and protective equipment, players who used their bodies as battering rams suffered not just kicks, bites and eye gouges but wrenched spines and cracked skulls.


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