NEW YORK -- The NFL will keep a close eye on hits to the knees of defenseless players this season, with the possibility of extending the rules protecting such players.
If the league's competition committee finds enough evidence this season that hits to the knees are "becoming a problem," it could take action, chief of football operations Ray Anderson told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The committee could make a recommendation to the owners next March to prohibit direct hits to the knees of defenseless players. The owners would then vote on such a change.
"We are always looking at plays that may elevate themselves and we do include in that category hits on defenseless players," Anderson said. "And certainly the hits to knees to players who have not had the opportunity to protect themselves or are not looking in the direction of where the hit comes from - we have had a couple hits whereby a player was hit below (or at) the knees."
Currently, hits to the head and neck of defenseless players are outlawed. But two direct hits to the knee in preseason games that injured Miami tight end Dustin Keller and Minnesota defensive tackle Kevin Williams have drawn complaints from some players.
Keller is out for the season with several torn knee ligaments. Williams has a hyperextended knee.
Anderson said the league will monitor plays during the year, study the data when the competition committee begins meeting after the season and see whether such hits to the knees are an "aberration or becoming a problem."
"This issue has not directly come up," Anderson added. "But when we have had discussions when making the head and neck area completely off-limits to players, there was some concern players might lower their targets and might include knees and below. We will look at that going forward."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press