In their annual meeting this week, NFL owners have voted to pass a controversial helmet rule, according to a March 20 AP release.
The new helmet rule, dubbed ‘absurd’ by Chicago running back Matt Forte earlier in the week, states that any player carrying the ball outside the tackle box cannot lower their head in order to use the crown of their helmet to initiate contact with a defender.
The NFL has been struggling to address concussion injuries and personal fouls related to tackling with the helmet.
In an interview last week with the Associated Press, NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay said player safety has to be foremost in the discussions regarding potential rule changes.
"This is pure and simple a player safety rule," McKay said. "The time has come we need to address the situation. You can't duck your head and deliver a forcible blow with your helmet."
Despite strong opinions voiced by several coaches, players and team executives, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pushed for the rule, which passed Wednesday as meetings concluded.
Another change that was made for next season was the elimination of the “tuck rule,” easily one of the most criticized rules in football.
Introduced in 1999, the tuck rule gained national attention from a controversial finish to a 2002 AFC divisional playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders.
In the fourth quarter of the game played at Foxboro Stadium, and with New England trailing by three points, quarterback Tom Brady started a passing motion, then stopped and “tucked” the ball into both hands.
Oakland’s Charles Woodson knocked the ball loose and it was recovered by Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert. Initially ruled a fumble and Oakland recovery, which would have given the game to the Raiders, referee Walt Coleman reversed the call and cited the tuck rule, declaring the play an incomplete forward pass.
The Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XXXVI.
With the elimination of the tuck rule, if a quarterback loses control of the ball before he has fully protected it after opting not to throw, it is still a fumble.
A change was made to video review options as well. Review will now be granted on plays when a coach inadvertently drops a challenge flag on a non-challengeable play. Previously, an incorrect challenge would negate the ability of a booth video review.
A coach will still be penalized or lose a timeout. However, the play will still be reviewable by video if needed.