“Crown of the Helmet” Rule Proposal is Met With Some Opposition
John Fennelly , Executive Editor
In an effort to keep players safer on the field, the NLF Competition Committee is trying to install a new rule that will limit helmet-to-helmet hits. No one is fighting the fact that the league needs to reduce injuries, but the below rule could lead to injuries of other types.
Proposal: Initiating Contact with the Crown of the Helmet.
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 the tackle box (an area extending from tackle to tackle and from three yards beyond the line of scrimmage to the offensive team’s end line). Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul.
Note: The tackle box no longer exists once the ball leaves the tackle box.
Penalty: Loss of 15 yards. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic First Down. The player may be disqualified if the action is flagrant.
Effect: Restricts initiating contact with the top/crown of a helmet.
Reason: Player safety.
From Pro Football Talk:
“I think it makes it tough for the running backs,” Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said. “It’s such an instinctive motion to duck that head to try to protect yourself. So I don’t know what’s going to happen, whether this will pass or not. But I think it puts those backs in a vulnerable state if they can’t lower their pads. And the only way to lower your pads is to get your head down.”
Frazier said he understands the idea behind the rule — to protect players’ heads — but he doesn’t know if it’s worth the added exposure to players’ legs.
“When those defenders are coming at your legs, if you don’t protect yourself and you don’t get your pads down, now you run the risk of lower body injuries,” Frazier said.
In addition, the enforceability of the rule is being questioned. Giants CEO John Mara said the rule may be tabled until later in the offseason. His concern was how the rule would be officiated. He is not alone. From PFT:
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters that he supports the idea of reducing the number of head-first collisions on the field, but he’s concerned that the officials will have a hard time differentiating between a running back lowering his shoulders in an effort to break a tackle and a running back ducking his head into a tackler.
“How do we go about doing it? How do we officiate it?” Tomlin asked.
Others feel the players will acclimate to the new rule. Denver Broncos head coach John Fox believes the integration of the rule will not be that much of a problem.
“Right now, the simple equation is they want the helmet used for protection, not as a weapon. I think that message gets across,” Fox said. “It’s slowly gotten across as far as the passing game. Now there are rules on the table that are going to involve the running game as well. They will adapt. They have in the past and will moving forward.”
John Fennelly, Executive Editor
It’s a natural instinct to duck when one is about to be in a collision. I don’t know how that can be stopped. A runner needs to be able to lower his head in order to lower his center of gravity, which makes him more difficult to tackle. This rule, if I’m reading it right, is to keep them from using their helmet in an offensive manner.
On defense, the ‘spearing’ (launching into a ballcarrier head-first) has to stop. My take is this has to be taught and enforced at the lowest levels of the game. Get back to wrapping up and tackling. Someone suggested practicing without helmets to teach players how to tackle rather than how to hit (not a good idea from a safety standpoint IMO). Unfortunately, textbook-style tackles don’t make the highlights and players want to make their presence known.