The NFL competition committee has proposed six rules changes for the upcoming season at the owner’s meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The proposal that has generated the most discussion is the one aiming to eliminate players initiating contact with the crown of their helmets.
“I think even what they’ve tried to do on defense, they’ve tried to eliminate the crown of the head,” Head Coach John Fox said. “That’s in essence using the helmet as a weapon. Instead of just relegating it to the defense, now they are relegating it to the offense because they saw examples of it.”
Fox said it wasn’t a surprise that the NFL is looking into this rule change based on the recent emphasis on player safety.
“It’s just basically eliminating that crown-leading type of blow of the head,” he said. “They’ve been teaching that for years on defense to get away from that because it is very potentially dangerous, especially for the neck area.”
Under the new rule, it would be a 15-yard penalty and subject to additional discipline from the league if an offensive or defensive player created contact with the crown of his helmet.
Fox is confident that it won’t be difficult to teach the new rule to his players.
“Players are really adaptable,” he said. “Right now, the simple equation is they want the helmet used for protection, not as a weapon. I think that message gets across. It’s slowly gotten across as far as the passing game. Now there are rules on the table that are going to involve the running game as well. They will adapt. They have in the past and will moving forward.”
The rule changes are designed not only to make the game safer at the NFL level, but also to help teach younger football players the proper fundamentals from the beginning.
Focusing on player safety in the NFL produces a trickle-down effect that reaches players who are just starting to play tackle football.
“We’re changing,” Fox said. “And I agree with the direction we’re going because I think at the end of the day you want young people playing football because what we’re doing is not just affecting the top of the world. It’s affecting youth, high school and college. To make it safer is probably better for the future of the game.”