The crown-of-the-helmet rule passed Wednesday at the NFL Annual Meeting by a 31-1 vote (with only the Cincinnati Bengals voting against it). The change already has stirred plenty of debate, with the strongest reactions coming from those players most directly affected by it: running backs. Where do you stand on the new rule?
Stupid rule endangers running backs' well-beingIt's crazy. I think it's a stupid rule. It's all about suits -- suits run our game. And now it's on the zebras to make the call and make the call right. I'm just glad I don't have to play under this rule, because I'm not quite sure how I would protect myself at times. A lot of things sound good when you're just discussing it, but we're talking about a game that's played at a breakneck pace; officials have to make split-second decisions.
Enforcement is the obvious concern, but I'm also thinking about the safety of players. When you run the football with your chin up in the air, you're going to get knocked out. Look at Stevan Ridley in the AFC Championship Game -- if he would've gotten low, I don't see him getting knocked out by Bernard Pollard on that game-changing play. I know this: If you face contact with your eyes up, you will get hurt. As a ball carrier, the only thing you can do to protect yourself sometimes is getting down, and that now can be taken as lowering your helmet and using it as a weapon. You take that away from a guy, and now you have to run up in there chin-first.
NFL had no choice in the current football climateI think it's going to be very difficult to officiate. I think it will be enormously tough for running backs to adjust in the short term. I think we'll see considerable blowback from players when the fines start pouring in.
And in the end, I don't think the NFL had any sort of choice.
Every decision the league makes these days is approached with the concussion litigation, the thousands of plaintiffs behind it and the billions of dollars in legal liability in mind. It's understandable that players like Matt Forte would be upset with this; playing a position that's based on instincts and quick, short bursts, it's daunting to consider changing a style that has evolved in you since elementary school. Same goes for coaches; adding the potential of impactful, 15-yard penalties for actions that might be far from intentional will never be applauded by the guys with the play sheets. But these folks weren't the ones voting on the rule. The owners were. And through the owners' prism, you see how much more is on the line. It's not just about those suing the league now; it's also about the potential that damage done to future retirees (i.e., current players) could be destructive to the NFL years down the line.
So there might be a lot of people out there who don't like this one, and it's completely understandable why. It'd be smart to get used to these kinds of changes, though, because chances are, there are more coming down the pike.
Relax, everyone: This really isn't that big a dealWhen it comes to the new rule change on using your head as a battering ram, my plea to all avid NFL fans is to take a deep breath and relax. Essentially, there is no rule change. All NFL owners have done now is put an added emphasis on eliminating spearing (i.e., hitting someone with the crown of the helmet).
For years, spearing generally constituted a defender striking a defenseless offensive player on the ground with the crown of his helmet. The new rule now applies not only to a defender in that scenario, but also to a defender trying to take down a ball carrier during the course of the play. The new rule encourages a "Heads Up Football" mentality among ball carriers, as well. Offensive skill players can no longer duck their heads in a calculated fashion to purposely use the crown of the helmet to spear a defender.
I played football from the age of 4 to 32, and this rule doesn't contradict anything I was taught at any level. At its core, this new emphasis intends to protect NFL players from themselves. I truly understand a common complaint from my colleagues Marshall Faulk and Mike Mayock: This new approach forces officials to judge the intent of players in a game that moves at a million miles an hour. This has the potential to change the outcome of games, which I am completely against. That said, I do think this new emphasis will better our game and protect our players.
This is a terrible overreaction that puts running backs in an impossible positionI hate it. This changes how running backs run the ball. This alters the game. What are NFL backs supposed to do when they think they can barrel over a diminutive defensive back or linebacker?
I love the promotion of player safety, but this is over the top. That's not football. This is an overreaction to lawsuits. I feel terrible for NFL running backs. This is a sad day.
Collisions happen; what we need to focus on is the helmet itselfNo one is ever going to be happy when it comes to player safety. Former players are upset they weren't protected more, and the current ones don't want new rules to inhibit them. It's crazy. Either you want more safety or you don't. The players have to get on board in one direction, because this is what's hurting the image of the game: the two vociferous sides of one issue.
Here's what I'm for: Brian Dawkins' perspective. Steve Wyche and I talked to him about this last year. He told us that as long as there's a system in place to protect players from playing with injuries and concussions, that's good. He just wished he had one thing when he was playing: a better helmet. Collisions are going to happen. After fender benders, no one stops driving cars the way they used to, do they? But as long as it has the best seat-belt/air-bag system, that's the biggest thing we can ask for. Make sure the helmet is the best it can be.