By Zac Bellman
The NFL Annual Owners Meetings took place this week, and three major rule changes were approved after being proposed by the competition committee. One long standing rule that was eliminated was the “Tuck Rule,” which grants a quarterback an incompletion when he loses possession of the ball in the act of tucking it into his body.
Another rule change was made in regards to replay review. After the NFL made all scoring plays and turnovers automatically reviewed in the replay booth, it became a penalty for the coach to throw the challenge flag, which would result in a delay of game penalty and the play not being reviewed. The most famous case of this occurred on Thanksgiving this past season when Jim Schwartz challenged a touchdown run against the Houston Texans.
The new procedure will allow the play to be reviewed regardless, but a timeout will be charged to the team that illegally throws the challenge flag. If they have no timeouts remaining, a 15 yard penalty will be assessed.
The third change made by the owners is the one that many players are up in arms about. In an effort to continue to improve player safety and avoid concussions (and concussion lawsuits) among players, the NFL has made it illegal for the ball carrier to lead with the crown of their helmet outside the tackle box. This comes in the wake of rule changes made in the last few years against helmet to helmet contact by defenders, which has been proven to lead to numerous concussions.
Although the way defenders tackled was part of the problem, another component they addressed with this rule is the way ball carriers run. Many ball carriers, especially in recent years, would drop their heads and present a very small window for defenders to make a legal tackle.
This is obviously a move made in the interest of player safety, but not all players are approving of it. Running back Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears voiced his opinion of the change on his official Twitter page.
“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,” said Forte.
Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk also chimed in on NFL Network to explain his confusion with the new “crown rule.”
“I’m not quite sure how I would protect myself at times (under this rule),” said Faulk.
Whether this change decreases head trauma and makes the NFL more enjoyable or increases other injuries and causes fan frustration remains to be seen. Rules like this have the potential to revolutionize the game, many fans just hope the result isn’t a game that resembles flag football rather than tackle.