The NFL passed a series of new rules at the league’s annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ this morning. The most notable new law of the game forbids ball carriers from striking defenders with the crown of their helmets in the open field of play — a move that is perhaps best exemplified in the above video of Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson absolutely trucking Philadelphia Eagles safety Kurt Coleman.
According to reports, the rule passed with 31 of 32 teams voting in favor. Only the Cincinnati Bengals — a team well known for bucking conventional thinking — voted against the proposal.
Who voted against the crown-of-the-helmet rule? The #Bengals. Even with coach Marvin Lewis on the Competition Committee. It was 31-1.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 20, 2013
The rule has faced a good amount of criticism since it was first revealed to the public in the days prior to the vote, with some arguing that it’s impossible for ball carriers to control how their bodies strike defenders. The NFL really had no choice but to pass the rule once the proposal leaked, however, as voting down a measure aimed at improving player safety would have been a PR nightmare for a league already facing myriad questions about concussions and the long-term health of its athletes.
St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the NFL’s Competition Committee, hailed the rule as “a huge victory for the National Football League.” He added: “Here’s how the game should be played: Let’s bring the shoulder back. We’ve lost the shoulder in the game. Let’s bring it back.”
Among other rules passed today are the abolishment of the forward pass-fumble rule known to most as the “Tuck Rule.” Under the new wording of the rule, Tom Brady’s pump fake and apparent fumble (which was called back) in the 2001 AFC Divisional Round game would indeed have been ruled a fumble.
The NFL also altered a rule that penalized teams for throwing challenge flags on plays that were already subject to automatic replay review — as Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz famously did during his team’s 2012 Thanksgiving Day game. Moving forward, the play in question will be reviewed regardless of whether a coach throws a challenge flag.