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NFL Moves One Step Closer to Flag Football with New Rule Changes

March 20th, 2013 at 1:30 PM
By Dan Benton

The NFL is all about improving player safety on the field, and while that is a legitimate concern, their efforts have altered the game of football tremendously. That continued on Wednesday as the owners voted 31-1 in favor of creating a "crown of the helmet" rule that will penalize offensive players for ducking their head outside of the tackle box (see: in the open field). In other words, it eliminates the ability for an athlete to not only do what they've been taught since day one, but to react naturally when preparing to engage a defender.

'Fort Wainwright Intramural Flag Football Championship 2010' photo (c) 2010, Public Affairs Office Fort Wainwright - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The only team who didn't vote in favor of the new "crown of the helmet" rule was the Cincinnati Bengals.

The addition of this new "crown of the helmet" rule will not only cause players to attempt to control their natural instincts, it will become a nightmare for officials on the field – something owners have both publicly and privately admitted. It puts the referees in a position to interpret what they see outside of the tackle box and make a call based on that alone. All penalties for this new rule will be non-reviewable.

“Jim Brown never used his helmet in the open field, so it can be done," Art Rooney III said.

Owners did consider just making this rule violation finable, but instead opted for a 15-yard penalty. So rather than a touchdown, the following run by Ahmad Bradshaw could now, technically, be considered illegal because he is clear of the line of scrimmage and not "protecting himself" or the ball.

"Get your daughters ready because they'll be playing football soon!" former Giants RB Brandon Jacobs tweeted after hearing of the new rule. "Our head are connected to our shoulders. There's no such thing, you can't drop your shoulders without our heads."

In addition to that new rule, the league properly voted to eliminate the tuck rule. And perhaps not so surprisingly, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft abstained on the vote (so did the Washington Redskins). Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the only team that voted in favor of keeping the rule.

The elimination of the tuck rule makes it so a player loses possession when he tries to bring the ball back to his body. If the passer loses control while the ball is going forward, it's still incomplete. If he loses the ball while tucking, it's a fumble.

Perhaps less notable, the NFL passed several other changes as well, including the Jim Schwartz challenge flag rule and jersey rule for tight ends (they will not be able to wear numbers in the 40's).

Also…

Tags: Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Football, Jim Schwartz, New England, New England Patriots, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington, Washington Redskins

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35 Responses to “NFL Moves One Step Closer to Flag Football with New Rule Changes”

  1.  Dan Peterson says:

    I really don’t think this is going to be an issue. It makes sense that if a defender can’t lead with his head than neither can a ball carrier.

    Dropping your shoulder (even though they are attached to heads) doesn’t equal hitting someone with the crown of a helmet intentionally. You can still crouch and cover up without leading, just like you can tackle without leading.

    All the “it’ll be flag football soon” and “girl will be playing next” arguments really make a poor example of football fans.

    • Dan BentonDan Benton says:

      A lot more rules in the recent past have altered the game. This is just one more. And the fact that there’s no replay or review allowed on these penalties means officials have literally half a second to see clearly which portion of the helmet hits in order to throw a flag.

      I stand by every single player I’ve seen tweet about this (and the agents): it’s garbage.

      •  Dan Peterson says:

        Yeah, but of course the players aren’t going to like it. I bet you don’t hear any DBs complaining, because it works out in their favor.

        I get what you’re saying, that too many rule changes take something away, but with all of the controversy around long term side effects from concussions the NFL HAD to do its due diligence. It might seem like its useless, but it serves a purpose of saying “Well, we have tried to keep this from happening.”

        I really don’t think we’ll see TOO many calls where a RB balls up and gets called for using his helmet. Even in that Bradshaw vid, he clearly used his shoulder. It’s really the same thing as with tacklers.

    •  ERICHONIUS says:

      “It makes sense that if a defender can’t lead with his head…” actually, and ironically, defensive players CAN lead with their head as long as the opposing player has established themselves as a runner. So now it is only the offense that cannot.

      •  Dan Peterson says:

        When have defenders ever been able to lead with their helmet? Technically, any kind of contact with the helmet to the player being tackled is against the rules – in that regard they’ve been pretty lax, really.

        I’m not saying that there won’t be some miscalls, etc., but people are quick to talk about how the game is being ruined every time there’s a rule change, and it’s never ruined.

  2.  LUZZ says:

    I don’t like it. This means the play where Bradshaw broke through the line of scrimmage against the Jets in 2011, lowered his head and trucked the Jets safety, would now be a 15 yard penalty against the Giants. i don’t like it.

  3.  BigBlueGiant says:

    IMO, Stiffarms by the ball carrier are more dangerous.

  4.  KingAndrewXXIII says:

    Agree with Dan, this rule is trash. Pussifying the game. These guys are gladiators that are VERY well compensated and almost all receive a free education prior to entering the league. They know the risks and love the game. Watering it down is just going to deteriorate the game and…if it really keeps up, the fan base and possibly even the players.

  5.  BigBlueGiant says:

    The proper way for an athlete to run and garner more speed and strength is to run low.

    This is going to cause SOOOO many more penalties in the NFL bc in the heat of action, it’s hard to determine if the player is leading with his pads or his helmet.

    This is trash and making the game bad.

  6.  GOAT56 says:

    This rule is all about enforcement. Are they going to overboard like with the “defenseless” receiver hits or are they going to treat it like holding and call just the extremes. If it’s the later the rule might not be bad but if it’s the former then it really can hurt the game.

    But the key about this rule is outside the tackle box so i don’t know if as many plays come into question as some might think.

  7.  rlhjr says:

    In the event my feelings on the subject are not clear…..REPOST:

    With their latest rules proposal, the NFL has once again proved that billion dollar corporations can be and in many cases are run by complete morons. (See Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys) All you need is a viable product.

    As with the moratorium on tackling and use of the helmets there in, the league rule makers backed by emperor Ming…errr I mean Mr. Goodell has surpassed their own object stupidity and ignorance of all things physical with regards to football.

    I wonder when these weenies will ever understand that they cannot legislate kinesiology. They must really want desperately to devalue the running back position by committing indirect genocide. So in addition to penalizing defensive players for not being able to eradicate instinct, they now want to remove the basic tenant of football, I.E. get low and small at impact. In other words, protect yourself.

    These fools are getting to the legendary stage now. The people making these calls have surely never participated in a tackle or a off tackle running play. They are a joke and if allowed they will one day soon totally destroy the game of football. They have already attempted to turn it into a Madden parody.

    Now they want to remove improvisation and instinct from both sides of the ball. Let’s see fifty points a game scoring defensive players being “legally” held and running backs impersonating Forest Gump’s running posture. Could it be true that this country derives most of its history from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer?

    Just work with junior leagues, schools and colleges in teaching kids how to tackle properly. Tackling is not some mystical Tibetan ritual. It’s been around a few years. But in this day and age of football, league officials don’t understand that these marvelous athletes can be taught to block and tackle properly. And that reinforcing basic techniques is the cure for sloppy skills displayed by professional players now. Vice education, the NFL would rather ruin their game. And give pivotal decision making authority to either has been or never was individuals.

    With these dummies in charge, I really wouldn’t let a child of mine even consider football. Baseball or basketball is the way to go. It would be a death/disablement sentence. The very thing Goodell says he’s working to prevent, his inane policy makers are hastening.

    The last football player to die during a pro game I think last name was “Munson”. He played for Detroit back when tackling was mostly done via close lining face masking and dragging down by shoulder pads. Mr. Munson did not die due to being “improperly” tackled. Just saying………………….

    •  Dan Peterson says:

      Nobody trains a running back to point his helmet at a defender and spear him. Getting low, dropping a shoulder, etc, is not the same thing as leading with the crown of the helmet. Heck, it’s not even safe for a runner to do that – taking his eyes off the field and hitting something with his head is a great way to break his neck.

  8.  Levito says:

    I think it’s a major overreaction. At first glance, I don’t like the rule much either, but from what I’ve read, a small sample size from last season’s games would have had one penalty for this every 3 games. And that’s even without the rule being illegal. Chances are it won’t be called very often. Yes, AB’s run above probably would have been called, but Bradshaw’s got a strong enough stiff arm, he could have done the same thing with his hand if he wanted to.

    I’ll reserve judgement until I see how it’s called on the field of play.

  9.  kinsho says:

    I think you guys are getting too upset.

    Listen, the NFL has to do something like head injuries. If it doesn’t act, it’ll only subject itself to an ever increasing number of lawsuits in the future, as more and more players begin complaining about brain injuries they first sustained when they played the game years ago. The NFL has to prove that it’s doing all it can to prevent permanent brain trauma.

    BUT….(I need confirmation from the G101 lawyers here), I believe if the NFL had all of its player sign waivers acknowledging football is an inherently dangerous sport that can result in permanent disabilities, then these players will have no case and the NFL will not necessarily be forced to overly protect players against brain injury. In that case, you could do away with all these silly rules about how or when to hit a player and return this great sport to its roots.

    •  BlueSince60 says:

      I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t think you can give up your right to sue, where negligence can be proved. So no, it wouldn’t stop the lawsuits.

      •  Dan Peterson says:

        No, but it gives the NFL the ability to say they took precautionary measures. A player can’t claim to say he didn’t know the risks involved.

  10.  Chad Eldred says:

    I’m loving the G101 editorial. And thanfully it’s not a piece devoted to opinion on the value of Nicks v Cruz. Or Cruz v Nicks.

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