NFL owners wrapped up their winter meeting in Phoenix on Wednesday, voting to eliminate the tuck rule, penalize players for leading with the crown of their helmet and change the replay challenge rule so that a bad coaches’ challenge doesn’t prevent officials from reviewing the play.
The helmet rule drew a lot of criticism from players, especially former and current running backs who claim they need to get low and helmet to helmet contact is inevitable. However, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said it best when he said the helmet is a protective device and shouldn’t be used as a weapon. He said backs can still get low and keep their head up. Both offensive and defensive players who lead with the top of the helmet will be flagged 15 yards in certain. Should both players be flagged, the penalties will offset and the teams will replay the down.
“It is a foul if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top/crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside the tackle box (an area extending from tackle to tackle and from three yards beyond the line of scrimmage to the offensive team’s end line),” Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8 — reads. “Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul.”
The NFL finally dropped the ridiculous tuck rule that kept Oakland out of the Super Bowl. Tom Brady benefitted from the rule in that 2001 playoff game between the Patriots and the Raiders. A ball that Brady fumbled was ruled an incomplete pass, and the Patriots went on to win the game. If a quarterback starts to bring the football back toward his body while trying to throw, it will be ruled a fumble instead of an incomplete pass.
The other rule change is in the replay challenge rule that fixes a problem when coaches challenge a play that would be automatically reviewed in the replay booth.