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What Major Rule Changes Is the NFL Proposing Now That Has Some Fuming?


"It sounds like it’s been made up by people who have never played the game of football.’’

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (52) tackles Green Bay Packers running back DuJuan Harris (26) during the first half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in San Francisco, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (Photo: AP/Ben Margot)

  • The NFL Competition Committee announced several potential rule changes Thursday.
  • Among them are the controversial tuck rule and a ban against lowering of helmets by ball carriers to knock into a defensive player. 
  • "You've absolutely lost your mind." -- Emmitt Smith
  • Changes will be decided upon by team owners next week at the league's annual meeting in Phoenix. 

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (52) tackles Green Bay Packers running back DuJuan Harris (26) during the first half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in San Francisco, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (Photo: AP/Ben Margot)

Changes to how the game of American football is played by the National Football League have been traditionally met with discontent from fans. With six new proposed rule changes on the table, it seems the reaction this time around will be a mixed bag.

One of the most notable proposed changes would be a rule banning running backs -- or whomever is carrying the ball -- from lowering their helmets to go head-first into a defender while outside the immediate tackle box. The rule would make it a 15-yard penalty if the crown of the helmet is used in contact outside the tackle box. Incidental contact with the crown of the helmet though would not be a penalty.

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore is seen during the Super Bowl putting the crown of his helmet into a Baltimore Ravens playing in what would an incidental move. Under the proposed rule, purposefully doing this would result in a penalty.

"This is pure and simple a player safety rule," Competition Committee co-chairman Rich McKay, who is president of the Atlanta Falcons, said according to the Associated Press. "The time has come we need to address the situation. You can't duck your head and deliver a forcible blow with your helmet."

But, as with other safety changes the NFL has instituted in recent years, there are those who are not happy. The radio station 105.3 The Fan reported retired running back Emmitt Smith saying "you've absolutely lost your mind," over the proposed change. Here's more on what Smith told The Fan (via CBS Local DFW)

“If I’m a running back and I’m running into a linebacker, you’re telling me I have to keep my head up so he can take my chin off?’’ Smith said.


“As a running back, it’s almost impossible [to not lower your head],’’ said the Dallas Cowboys legend. “The first thing you do is get behind your shoulder pads. That means you’re leaning forward and the first part of contact that’s going to take place is your head, regardless.

“I disagree with the rule altogether. It doesn’t make any sense for that position. It sounds like it’s been made up by people who have never played the game of football.’’

Marco Rubio, who attended Tarkio College for one year on a football scholarship, weighed in on the rule change as well on Twitter:


In addition, the controversial tuck rule could be completely dumped if the team owners vote it so in their Phoenix meeting next week.

Under the tuck rule, if a passer is in the act of bringing the ball down into his body rather than throwing it and loses control, it is ruled an incomplete pass. The proposal under consideration would make it a fumble.

The rule was among the NFL's most obscure until it became infamous during the 2001 playoffs in New England, when Tom Brady apparently lost a fumble late in a game against Oakland. Initially ruled a fumble, it was reversed under the tuck rule, the Patriots kept the ball and eventually beat the Raiders.

"What is happening is a great majority of these plays are appropriately called fumbles," McKay said on a conference call. "Then officials go into replay and look at it, and under the rule if the tuck had not been completed (the call) has to be reversed from ... a fumble. They think they can call it and can understand when a passer has lost control of the ball, so we felt more comfortable proposing the rule."

USA Today's sports columnist Jarrett Bell said with this proposed rule change the NFL "finally got it right." Bell also pointed out the Raider's reaction to the proposal:


Replay also plays a key role in another potential rule change.

Last Thanksgiving, Detroit coach Jim Schwartz challenged what officials ruled was an 81-yard scoring run by Houston's Justin Forsett. Because all scoring plays are reviewed, Schwartz was not allowed to throw the red flag, and by doing so he negated use of replay. Forsett clearly had been down by contact earlier in the run, but the touchdown stood and the Texans went on to win in overtime.

McKay called the way the rule stood "an anomaly."

The proposal will ensure the play is reviewed and the right call is made, but the coach making the illegal challenge will draw a 15-yard penalty. Forbidden challenges occur when a team is out of timeouts; has used up its challenges; in the final two minutes of a half; in overtime; or on scoring plays or turnovers.

Should a coach challenge in the final two minutes of halves or in OT, he will lose a timeout as well as have his team penalized 15 yards.

In addition to the lowering of helmets rule, two others were proposed to enhance player safety.

One would ban offensive players from making a low block when facing their own end zone and they are inside the tackle box. That will prohibit so-called peel-back blocks anywhere on the field.

The other would offer more protection for snappers. The rule would prevent teams from lining up more than six players on either side of the snapper for field goals and extra points. And teammates couldn't be pushed through gaps in the protection on those kicks.

"Teams will still have opportunities to overload and affect a kick and still potentially block those kicks," said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, another co-chairman of the committee.

Among new features that have already been decided upon is required attire that will add protection.

Next season, players will be required to wear knee and thigh pads. Ray Anderson, who as the league's executive vice president of football operations will oversee enforcement, said the NFL will be vigorous in ensuring players use them, beginning in the preseason.

Many players, particularly in skill positions, have fought the extra padding, saying it slows them down.



The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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