Tucked away

Image of Trent Richardson-AP photo by Tom Uhlman
Image of Trent Richardson-AP photo by Tom Uhlman

NFL rule changes

By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer

The NFL recently made changes to the rule book, causing a buzz in the process, but simultaneously taking great strides in advancing player safety. The most prominent change is that ball carriers can no longer drive the crown of their helmet into a defender in the open field, but peel-back blocks and the tuck rule were also eliminated.

While many hard-nosed runners were immediately up in arms about the new rule restricting the use of their helmets, the owners were decidedly on the other side of the coin, with the vote finishing at 31–1—Cincinnati being the lone team to vote against the change. Browns’ running back Trent Richardson felt that he was the reason for the change, “I feel like I made it bad for all the backs. I feel like it’s my fault. People keep telling me it’s the T-Rich rule. I guess I made history today.” Richardson was involved in a monstrous collision last year with the Eagles’ Kurt Coleman that the Philly safety saw the worst of, his helmet flying some 15 yards after Richardson bulldozed into Coleman head first. The young back had a slightly threatening quote for the league though: “Most likely I’m going to be the one getting all the fines and all the penalties…I just can’t change the way I play the game. I’ll still play me. I’ll still play the way I play. I’m going to try to be as safe as I can, but I’m going to protect myself first. I know there are a lot of runners that feel the way I feel.” Essentially, he doesn’t care that plays similar to the one with Coleman will draw a 15-yard penalty and possibly a fine; he’ll do it anyway.

For those who are taking shots at the change, saying the NFL is destroying the game, remember the popular line brought up by Steelers’ President Art Rooney: “Jim Brown never lowered his head.” The helmet is not a weapon, nor should it be used as one. I love watching a defender get flattened just as much as the next guy, but when players are stronger and more athletic, the injuries sustained from such blows can be serious. Yes, lowering the helmet does help backs defend themselves, no one is arguing that point, but this is just about being one-on-one in the open field; driving forward with the helmet in the tackle box still appears to be legal.

In the name of player safety, the peel-back block has been removed completely from the game. Formerly, players could still turn back to their own goal line and take out their man low so long as they were in the tackle box, but now even that has been taken out. After gross injuries such as Brian Cushing’s, it was just a matter of time until the NFL cracked down on the cheap shots offensive linemen were taking on defenseless players. As any sane person would expect, there hasn’t been any real opposition on this one.

The last notable change is the dismissal of the infamous “Tuck Rule” that was key in the Patriots win over the Oakland Raiders in a 2002 playoff game. From now on, any quarterback who fumbles the football as he’s trying to bring it back into his body will actually fumble the football. This should have been done a long, long time ago. Needless to say, the Patriots abstained from voting on the rule.

There will always be folks taunting the league about player safety rules and the mocked change to the NFFL (National Flag Football League), but it’s the right move. Is our entertainment really worth cutting short men’s lives or severely limiting their quality of life? Of course not.