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NFL officiating video stresses new “crown of the helmet” rule

Philadelphia Eagles v Cleveland Browns

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 09: Strong safety Kurt Coleman #42 of the Philadelphia Eagles tries to stop running back Trent Richardson #33 of the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter of their season opener at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 9, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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An NFL instructional video on new rules and officiating points of emphasis has been played for players at all 32 team training camps, and it should come as no surprise that the new “crown of the helmet” rule got prominent placement.

The video, which the league has made available publicly, emphasizes that this is a new rule which will be strictly enforced, while also making sure players understand exactly what goes into the rule.

“The first rule change prohibits a runner or tackler from initiating forcible contact with the crown of the helmet outside the tackle box,” the video’s narrator says. “There are three components to this foul: First, the player must line up his opponent. Second, he must lower his head. And third, he must deliver a forcible blow with the crown of his helmet to any part of his opponent’s body. The crown is the very top of the helmet. This rule was designed not only to protect the player receiving the blow, but also the player delivering it. Violations of this rule will result in 15-yard penalties for unnecessary roughness, and potential discipline. If the contact occurs in the tackle box, or if all three components are not present, there is no foul.”

Other rule changes and points of emphasis mentioned in the video include:

-- Restrictions have been added on the defense on field goals and extra points: The defense cannot have more than six players on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper. Violations will result in five-yard penalties for illegal formation. Defensive players also cannot push down linemen into the kicking team’s formation, and violations will result in 15-yard penalties for unnecessary roughness. The rules regarding low blocks have also been modified, so the defense cannot hit an offensive player below the waist on field goals, extra points or punts. Previously, players on the line of scrimmage could block low if they were lined up on or inside the tight end, but that is no longer permitted. Long snappers on field goals and extra points are also considered defenseless players who receive all the protections for defenseless players. The snapper cannot be hit in the head while he’s in the process of snapping the ball. Once he starts actively blocking, he is no longer considered defenseless.

-- Peelback blocks are now illegal anywhere on the field. Previously, peelback blocks were allowed inside the tackle box. “Illegal peelback blocks are dangerous and have no part in our game,” the video’s narrator says. “Violations will result in 15-yard penalties and potential discipline.”

-- Players are reminded that they can be suspended for committing a clear violation of the rules on hits to the head, especially when a player took a clear path to hit an opponent whose position was not affected by another player, and the contact was clearly avoidable. Repeat offenders are particularly subject to suspensions.

-- All players with the exception of kickers and punters will be required to wear thigh and knee pads at all times, including in pregame warmups. The first time an official notices a player isn’t wearing pads, he’ll be told to leave the field and put them on. If he comes back on without the pads, it will be a five-yard penalty. If he still doesn’t put the pads on after that, he will be ejected.

-- The tuck rule has been eliminated.

-- Coaches who throw their challenge flags on plays that were going to be replayed automatically (such as scoring plays and turnovers) will not lose the challenge, but they will lose a timeout or get a 15-yard penalty if they are out of timeouts. (Video of Jim Schwartz throwing his challenge flag was played during this portion of the officiating video.)

-- Late hits after the play is over will be strictly penalized.

-- Game officials are being reminded to blow their whistles at the end of every play. That may seem obvious, but in the past sometimes officials didn’t bother to blow their whistles

-- All players are reminded that they are not allowed to grab opponents’ facemasks -- including runners. Runners are not allowed to grab the facemask any more than tacklers are, and runners who grab opponents’ facemasks will be given 15-yard penalties.

-- “Sportsmanship is always a point of emphasis,” the narrator of the video said. “Directing verbal abuse at an opponent has no part in our game.” Throwing, spiking, or spinning the ball in the direction of an opponent is a form of taunting that “will not be tolerated.”