Every year the NFL looks for ways to improve player safety and this year is no different. March 20, at the winter meeting, owners voted on several new rules. But the one that’s drawing plenty of attention is the new crown of the helmet hits rule.
It will now be a 15-yard penalty if a player who is more than three yards downfield or outside of the tackle box delivers a blow with the crown of his helmet. If the offensive and defensive player each lowers his head and uses the crown of the helmet to make contact, each will be penalized.
“It’ll certainly make our runners aware of what we expect relative to use of the helmet. One of the questions I ask a lot is who gains from this, offense or defense? And it’s a toss-up as to which side of the ball has the advantage on this rule, if any. The main thing is it’s pro-health and safety, and that’s the big thing,” said Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys owner when asked about it after the meeting,.
So far every rule that has come out has been aimed at changing the way the defense plays the game and I agree that most of those changes were necessary. However, this change to the way the ball carrier initiates contact makes me question whether we are saving one part of the body (the head) only to sacrifice another.
Defenders routinely dish out punishment, especially to running backs. Lowering their helmet and tightening up is an instinctive move used to sometimes get the tough yards. But like the NFL defenses have done for the last five years, offensive ball carriers are going to have to learn to deliver the blow and protect themselves with something other than the crown of their helmets.
What does this do to the game? Well for starters, there will be several players who may become extinct. Legendary runs like the one that Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch executed when facing the New Orleans Saints where he ran over seven, would-be tacklers on his way to scoring an incredible touchdown would be a penalty.
Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, who called the rule proposal “absurd” Sunday on Twitter, reacted to the rule’s adoption with similar disdain in a series of tweets, March 20.
“Wow so they really passed that rule . . . last time I checked, football was a contact sport. Calling bank now to set up my lowering the boom fund,” he wrote.
He followed that up with: “Next year they’ll probably be a no jumping over defenders rule . . . #loweringtheboomfund” and “Guess I’ll get my fine money ready.”
The intention of the rule may be valid, but I question if by taking away ball carriers ability to duck down, is the league opening up for a host of other injuries to ball carriers. In the era of head injuries and lawsuits, the league has to continue to change the culture. It’s not easy, there is no smooth transition, but if the NFL wants to continue to lead the world in sports popularity, it has a responsibility to change with the times.