Officials with the National Football League’s Competition Committee proposed a truly game-changing rule today as they attempt to make playing football a slightly less dangerous endeavor.
The rule, in its entirety, reads:
It is a foul if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside of the tackle box. Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul.
The rule would thus make it a foul for a ball carrier to hit a defender with the crown of his helmet while in open space. The change would effectively end the frequently used move of lowering your head and slamming into an opposing defender, a tactic as old as the game itself. The rule says that incidental contact with the crown of the helmet would not be viewed as a penalty.
Though the rule may not sound especially important, it would mark the first time in history that a runner’s contact with a defender was limited. The only other limiting rules would be those against especially egregious maneuvers like grabbing a facemask or punching another player.
The NFL says that the crown of the helmet is dangerous not only for the defender, but the player with the ball. Though the NFL believes the rule is a step towards making the game safer for players, it has prompted significant controversy, including ridicule by the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith.
Smith said the idea of having a running back collide into a linebacker with their head up runs counter to everything players are taught. Smith said as a running back it’s almost impossible not to lower your head and that the first thing players are taught is to get behind their shoulder pads, which means leaning forward.
NFL team owners will vote on the measure next week at the league’s annual meeting in Phoenix. At least 24 votes from the 32 owners are needed for the rule to pass.
Pope McGlamry P.C., currently represents former professional football players and their families for injuries and damages sustained as a result of suffering concussions while playing football, and is actively involved in the current concussion litigation. If you or someone you love has been injured by a sports-related concussion, you may be entitled to compensation.
Source: “Heard on the Field,” by Ben Cohen, published at WSJ.com.
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