NFL Rule Changes On The Table At Annual League Meeting

Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

If this photo was taken in 2013, would DeMarco Murray be at risk for a penalty for initiating contact with the pylon with his helmet? It might seem that the NFL is moving in this direction. "Keep Ya Head Up!"

Sorry Pac, I hate to bring you up for a reason like this but I just couldn't resist.

The Annual NFL League meetings are underway in Pheonix, AZ this week and a bunch of guys who probably couldn't tell the difference between Tupac (hip hop legend) and Expac (wrestler) are preparing to tell players they better keep their heads up or else receive a penalty.

Among the rule changes that the competition committee is considering is one that would make it illegal for a person to lower their head and initiate contact when in the open field. This rule has been met by loud opposition by some across the league and currently in retirement. It's being framed as a running back rule, but it actually applies to everyone on the field.

According to Jeff Fisher, the outrage doesn't match the rule change. It will not apply to plays within the tackle box. It will only be called in the open field. Running backs will still be able to curl up to protect the ball and protect their body. The call should only be enforced when a player looks to initiate contact with the crown of his helmet.

Of course, proper enforcement of new rules isn't exactly NFL Officials forte. They might mess things up once or twice along the way. According to Andrea Kramer in the video I linked above, there were 34 plays "under consideration" from 2012 Week 16 alone, with 5 warranting a penalty. It was told like that would be a small number, but that seems pretty impacting to me.

The rule change is made under the NFL's quest for better player safety. It's been said that the NFL is risking ruining the sport trying to retroactively act because they used to lie to their players over safety concerns. There is a lawsuit pending with over 4,000 former NFL players suing the league because of untruths over concussion risks and things along those lines. Now that the facts are readily available, people that participate in the NFL know the risks backwards and forwards; does the violence still need to be legislated out of the game?

Running backs are taught from early to put their head down to protect themselves from collisions. The NFL will have to be very careful in not defending the rule being applied incorrectly. When they do that, it further erodes fan confidence in the stewards of the game they love to watch.

Another major rule change being discussed is the removal of the Tuck Rule. The Tuck Rule basically is a way of protecting Tom Brady quarterbacks from being blamed for fumbles when they give up the ball after choosing not to throw the ball. If at any point of a throwing motion, including bringing it back into his body (tucking it) after not releasing it, a quarterback is forced to lose the ball, it has been ruled an incomplete pass. This rule defies logic to anyone with a football brain, but there it was, used to send New England to the Super Bowl instead of the Raiders all those years ago. Now, it will be stricken from the rule book. Good riddance.

Two other rule changes are on the table. The Competition committee will vote on whether or not to ban peel-back blocks inside the tackles. Peel-backs are when offensive lineman turn away from the play to wipe out unsuspecting defenders. They will also consider a change in the Challenge-Flag rule. When a challenge is thrown in situation where play would be automatically reviewed, it wipes out the review. That could change.

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