The NFL recently announced new rules that would go in effect, starting in the 2013-2014 season. They include no more peel back block, no overloading the line of scrimmage in an attempt to block a field goal, removing the unnecessary challenge rule, and removing the orry Raiders it took this long, but better late than never, right? I am here to talk about probably the most controversial one though, that has everybody talking, the rule making it illegal for ball carriers to lead with their helmet to try to run over defenders outside the tackle box, also known as the crowning rule. Another example of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell flexing his muscles and exerting his power over the NFL to try to improve player safety and essentially cover the backside of the NFL and protect itself from future lawsuits, as it has been hit hard by those over the past year. But is it really that much of a “dictator” rule or, just really, making it equal on both sides of the ball?
This rule does sound ludicrous when you first think about it, how can a running back run someone over or just simply protect his own self without lowering his head? The running back leads with his shoulders into the defender and not the crown of the helmet. The rule is in place for not being able to do this outside the tackle box, so in my interpretation, they can lower and cover up inside the tackle box but cannot purposefully lead with the crown of the helmet into a defender while running in the open field. The great Jim Brown, for example, was able to run through people leading with his shoulders without using his helmet to go through them. In a lot of ways this new rule does make sense. I do understand at the speed of the game it could be hard to judge if the ball carrier led with his helmet or just shoulder. It could become a grey area, like the defender spearing rule, but why is it ok for the running back to “spear” the defender when the defender can’t do the same?
It’s all about safety and trying to improve the health of the person delivering the hit as well as the safety and health of the person taking the hit. Think about it, when you lead directly with your head, where does the stress and pressure go? It goes to your head and your spine, which is a reason why the rule was in place for defenders, to save them from themselves and save the defenseless receivers as well. It’s like a defender making a form tackle; he leads with the shoulder, head up on the hip of the person he is hitting. The ball carrier running with the ball is the same, lower the shoulder, lead with the shoulder and get lower than the defender that way. The head and helmet of course go with the shoulders, but the head can’t be the main force driving through the defender. The shoulder pads were created for forceful contact, the helmet was made to protect against player’s heads from banging off of one another, not as a means to tackle someone with.
As far as the referees making the call on this, I do agree that it could become very “ticky-tack” and could potentially interfere with offensive drives because the act of running over of a defender looked like the ball carrier used the helmet to go through the defender. How can you determine if the helmet was the force being used or the shoulder pads were the force being used? This is the part where I do see the rule being a bit hazy, just like the defender spearing rule. I have seen many times where the defender makes a good clean hit on a receiver and they throw the flag for leading with the helmet when in fact it wasn’t that at all. You watch the replay over and over and see that it is clean, even the announcers will say the same thing. I know that part will be frustrating and could water down the league a bit, but as far as fairness for both sides of the ball and for safety reasons, I have to agree with putting this rule in place. Guys are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever before and when proper technique isn’t being used, problems and injuries are sure to ensue.
To check out all the new rules and penalties, click on the highlighted links for them at the top and it will link you to all the details.