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NFL may prevent runners from lowering their heads into tacklers


In another sign that the days of punishing, physical running backs like Jim Brown and John Riggins are coming to an end, the NFL is considering a rules change that would penalize runners for lowering their heads and initiating contact with tacklers.

Members of the NFL’s Competition Committee revealed today that they want to see a new rule that would make it a personal foul for either a runner or a tackler to engage in head-first contact with the crown of the helmet when running into each other outside the tackle box.

“This is a pure and simple player safety rule,” NFL Competition Committee Chair Rich McKay said. “We really think the time has come where we need to address the situation in space where a runner or a tackler has a choice of how to approach his opponent.”

McKay said there was no one specific play that made the Committee propose this rule change, and he said that the play that was viewed by many as the most violent example of a helmet-to-helmet hit in the NFL all season -- Bernard Pollard’s collision with Stevan Ridley in the AFC Championship Game -- would not have been a penalty because neither player was directly leading with the crown of his helmet.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the Competition Committee, said he believes coaches will be able to properly instruct their players in how to adjust to this rule.

“The ballcarrier is still going to be permitted to lower his shoulder, and the head is also going to come down to protect the football,” Fisher said. “We’re not taking that part of the run out of the game. What we’re saying is, in space, one-on-one, head-up, we’re not going to allow you to load up and use the crown of your helmet. It’s an obvious thing.”

It’s obvious that each year, the NFL’s Competition Committee is going to try a little bit harder to take us closer to a time when helmet-to-helmet hits are removed from the game completely.