In another sign that the days of punishing, physical running backs like Jim Brown and John Riggins are coming to an end, the NFL is considering a rules change that would penalize runners for lowering their heads and initiating contact with tacklers.
Members of the NFL’s Competition Committee revealed today that they want to see a new rule that would make it a personal foul for either a runner or a tackler to engage in head-first contact with the crown of the helmet when running into each other outside the tackle box.
“This is a pure and simple player safety rule,” NFL Competition Committee Chair Rich McKay said. “We really think the time has come where we need to address the situation in space where a runner or a tackler has a choice of how to approach his opponent.”
Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the Competition Committee, said he believes coaches will be able to properly instruct their players in how to adjust to this rule.
“The ballcarrier is still going to be permitted to lower his shoulder, and the head is also going to come down to protect the football,” Fisher said. “We’re not taking that part of the run out of the game. What we’re saying is, in space, one-on-one, head-up, we’re not going to allow you to load up and use the crown of your helmet. It’s an obvious thing.”
After thinking about it a bit more…it’s even dumber. “It’s an obvious thing.” Really, Jeff? Rodger Goodell and everyone on the competition committee are simply failing to see the bigger problem with this rule and others like it — they make the game too subjective. Most of these additional penalties are judgement calls that put the refs in increasingly high-pressure situations with little space for error. These calls aren’t like pass interference or holding, they happen quicker and are more difficult to spot on the fly. Even if future refs are trained to look out for these things, the fact that they involve parts of the body make them difficult to judge. And if we’re getting to the point in the future where refs are constantly under the hood reviewing hits to see where a player was hit and what part of the body he was hit with and what the intent of the defender was and if the ball carrier was defenseless, the game will be so slow it might as well not exist.