NFL Player Protection Rules: Enough Already?


A new rule approved last week has made it a 15 yard penalty for a runner or tackler to lower their helmet and deliver a blow more than 3 yards outside the tackle box.  This new rule is called the “crown rule” and was overwhelmingly passed by NFL teams, with only the Cincinnati Bengals voting against its implementation.

Sept. 30, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; A general view of a referees penalty flag during a game between the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Patriots beat the Bills 52 to 28. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sportsi

First of all, I want to be very clear that I am all for rules designed to protect a player’s safety and career longevity.  I agree with the rules in the books for limiting helmet to helmet contact.  There is nothing to be gained for taking a shot at a quarterback’s head after he has released the ball.  I also see no point to spearing or launching yourself helmet first at another player’s head.

I agree with the in the grass rule, there is no need to drill a quarterback who has already conceded the play.  I agree with the illegal crack-back penalty, especially when the result is an unexpected blow to the head.  I agree with the horse collar penalty, the resulting number of injuries and broken legs speak for themselves.

Oct 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett pleads for a review with referee Robert Dalton against the Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

I do not agree with the “defenseless receiver” rule.  I feel that the illegal “helmet to helmet”, “launching yourself at a player”, and “using the helmet as a weapon” rules cover what needs to be covered in that situation.  At this point you are possibly manipulating the outcome of the game.

As a defensive player, you are essentially being told to let them catch the ball and turn before you can hit them.  What effect has this had on incompletions?  What effect has this had on turnovers, and ultimately; what effect has it had on the outcome of games determined by one possession?

Isn’t slamming a receiver (as long as it’s not helmet to helmet) while he’s trying to catch a ball in an attempt to break up the pass just part of the game?  How many completions were allowed because the defender had to back off until the receiver was prepared to take a hit?  How many times in years past has such a hit resulted in pop up ball free for anyone who found themselves in the right place at the right time?  You see how this kind of rule could influence the outcome of a game, or possibly even a season?

Nov 13, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett argues a calls with referee Jerome Boger (23) and head linesman Jerry Bergman (91) in the third quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Bills 44-7. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Now with this “helmet crown” rule, what possible repercussions will there be for the purity of the game?  Obviously the “tackle box” clause was made to allow the runner to bury his head in a 3rd and 1 situation, but what about 3rd and 9?

In most 3rd and long situations the defense will allow short passes underneath with the intent of containing short of the 1st.  So now if the receiver or runner gets within a yard or two of the 1st, they can no longer lower their helmet and fight for the extra yards?  Now, instead of 1st and 10, they will be looking at (assessing the penalty from the spot of the foul) 3rd and 17? This has the potential to drastically alter the outcome of games.

These are the kind of rule changes that make fans angry, and making fans angry has never been a good thing.

The outrage doesn’t stop there, as many NFL players including the Cowboy’s own Dez Bryant have publicly spoken out against the rule change, and I have yet to hear of a single player defending it.

The NFL needs to understand that while fans don’t want to see injuries such as concussions and paralyzations (most of us anyway), we do want to see hard hits, turnovers, and barreling through for those extra yards.   We want to see the same hard-nosed, fight for every inch, and stop them at all costs kind of knock down drag out football we grew up with.

Otherwise, as a friend of mine suggested, let’s just bring back the leather helmets…nobody will lead with them.