(Youth Football Online, New York) A recent article in Slam Sports suggests that the NFL’s competition committee is devising a rules change to make the game of football safer. Their plan is to penalize running backs that lead with the crown of the helmet on hits in the open field. This is a most interesting proposal as now the NFL is looking to first protect the defensive player from injury in open space outside the tackle box. The rule is not enforced when the hit is considered incidental contact (I wish the referees good luck in distinguishing between the two). Does this proposed rule change have anything to do with the major issue of concussions in the NFL? Let’s ruminate.
What this rule says is as a running back you’re not allowed to lower your head and attempt to run over a (generally smaller) defensive back in open space. But big hits and head injuries seldom happen in the open field so what is the point? A football player will have more room to protect himself in space, will know what is coming and have more to react. In the open field all you have to do as a defensive back is make a sound tackle (a difficult task!). The running back’s responsibility is to juke or run on an angle to avoid the tackle and has a variety of ways to do this. Stiff arms and delivering of punishing clean hits are also part of a running back’s arsenal when in the open field.
While leading with the crown of the helmet should never be allowed in any case, this rule should not aim to take away from the aggressiveness of a running back. If it does, the defensive back will then gain an unfair advantage.
Where football players get hurt is in the box. This is where linebackers/ defensive linemen/ offensive linemen converge and cause havoc. It is a literal battle zone.
We appreciate the thought but the proposal seems flawed. The NFL needs to strictly enforce all leading with crown of helmet penalties with harsher intensity. Kids playing youth football need to see NFL’ers hitting correctly, using their shoulder pads. Keep in mind, children often emulate as the professionals do.