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Rules recap: Ban of peel-back block made play safer for defenses

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

Editor's note: This is the third in a four-part series looking back at the four player health and safety rules that were approved at the Annual League Meeting last year. The 2014 meeting begins Sunday in Orlando with more safety-related rules scheduled to be discussed.

THE RULE: A ban of "peel-back" blocks inside the tackle-box area.

What the rule changed: A 15-yard penalty was passed to be called on a player who is aligned in the tackle box when the ball is snapped, then moves to a position outside the box and initiates contact on the side and below the waist against an opponent if: (a) the blocker is moving toward his own end line; and (b) he approaches the opponent from behind or from the side.

Why the change was made: This was known as the "Brian Cushing Rule." The Houston Texans linebacker suffered a season-ending knee injury last year on a peel-back, or chop block. The rule makes most chop blocks illegal.

How it would affect player safety: At least inside the tackle box, no player would be legally caught off guard with a low block that could cause serious injuries to his legs.

The impact: While players voiced concern about cut blocks still being legal, Competition Committee chairman Rick McKay said earlier this year he was pleased how the rule to ban peel-back blocks was received in 2013. "I think people have understood that if we're going to go back and block toward our goal line, then we're not going to go high and we're not going to go low," he said. "What's happening is that the player is pursuing the runner and just cannot anticipate the block, so our feeling is that you've got to give that player added protection because they just don't see it coming. I think players are pretty comfortable with that rule.

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