A proposed rule that would stop offensive players from initiating head-first contact with oncoming defenders has critics crying that the NFL is going too far in its efforts to eliminate injuries from the sport.
Possible rule changes were discussed by the National Football League Competition Committee during a conference call Thursday in preparation of the NFL Annual Meeting, which begins Sunday in Phoenix, Ariz.
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One potential rule change that has gained a great deal of attention is no longer allowing offensive players to use the crown of their helmet to make initial contact with a defensive player. Defensive players, such as safeties and linebackers, are already prevented from using the technique due to the potential damage it could inflict on head and neck.
Concussions have been a major issue plauging the NFL in recent years.
Reaction to the proposed change was swift, with the league’s all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith, telling Dallas' sports radio station 105.3 The Fan on Thursday that it would be "almost impossible" for running backs to obey such a rule.
"As a running back, it’s almost impossible (to not lower your head)
," the Dallas Cowboys legend said. "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."
The league's stated reason for considering the rule change would be to reduce the potential danger to both the defender and ball-carrier that occurs when a player is hit head-on by another player's helmet.
"That’s part of the game," Smith continued, "the violent part of the game. ... I don’t know how you’re going to be able to enforce that rule without really jeopardizing the integrity of the game itself."
Another significant rule change being considered at the upcoming NFL nnual meeting is the elimination of the "Tuck Rule
In the rule, if a player, almost always a quarterback, loses possession of the ball while in a passing motion, but at the last moment decides to attempt to maintain possession of the ball rather than release it, the offensive team retains possession.
The rule was made famous during the 2002 Patriots-Raiders playoff game in which Patriots' Quarterback Tom Brady lost control of the ball after being hit by a defensive player.
Despite the ball being recovered by the Raiders, the Patriots retained possession because Brady was in the process of tucking the ball in when he was hit. The Patriots went on to win the game, which many critics attributed to the ruling in that play.
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