The NFL has passed new rules banning running backs from lowering their helmets on defenders and scrapping the “Tuck Rule.”
By a 31-to-1 vote, the league prohibited running backs from using their heads as battering rams against would-be tacklers.
The rule change comes in the midst of a campaign for concussion prevention and player safety. The NFL hopes to avoid litigation by former players claiming their health has rapidly deteriorated due to the physical punishment of playing in the NFL.
The helmet rule will certainly curb head injuries for running backs as they can no longer use their heads as weapons, but it will also change the art and style of running drastically.
Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith publicly denounced the rule change recently.
Smith called the rule “absurd,” adding, “There’s no way it’s possible for a running back to get to the situation where he has to make the decision whether or not to plow forward for an additional yard to keep the chains moving and keep the clock rolling to end the game or keep the chains moving so his team can continue to drive down the field to get a field goal to win the game.”
The new rule will enforce a 15-yard penalty against any violators.
While approving the helmet rule, league leaders threw out the notorious “Tuck Rule,” which had mandated that if a quarterback loses the football while tucking it back toward his body, the play would be treated the same as if his arm was going forward in a throwing motion while losing the ball. Thus the loose football was ruled an incomplete pass rather than a fumble. The Tuck Rule, which was seemingly conceived out of nowhere in the epic Patriots-Raiders 2001 AFC Championship game for Tom Brady’s benefit, was tossed into the garbage by a 29-to-1 vote.
Somewhere, Tom Brady is smiling at his 2002 fumble-turned-incomplete pass and subsequent Super Bowl victory while running backs everywhere have their heads in their hands.