From now on in the NFL, you better be careful before using that helmet.
In arguably one of the dumbest rule changes in recent history, league owners voted on Wednesday to put in place a rule penalizing any contact initiated by the crown of the helmet outside of the tackle box or more than three yards down field. That applies to everyone, ball carriers, defensive backs, linebackers — everyone.
So in other words, Adrian Peterson might be the most penalized player in the NFL this season.
There’s some validity to this rule — safety concerns, of course — but not enough to counter the fact that it’s completely outrageous. It’s bad enough that guys like James Harrison can’t make a tackle without getting fined $15K, or the fact that breathing on a quarterback constitutes a 15-yard penalty, but asking a running back to avoid using his helmet? That’s too far.
It takes away from the raw, violent instinct that makes the sport of football so incredibly fun to watch. Running the football isn’t a tentative act. It’s not a slow, smooth process. You have those pads and that helmet for a reason — to hit someone. And that’s what running backs do. They run full blast into a mosh pit of 350 pound men and hit someone.
If a ball carrier like Peterson or Marshawn Lynch sees a defensive back flying in for the tackle, they’re going to lower their head and give a blow. That’s football. That’s what makes it fun.
Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte has been pretty vocal about this rule, and he’s got good reason to be. I understand the safety concerns, and something needs to be done to prevent concussions and other head injuries even further, but helmet-to-helmet contact by a ball carrier is a part of the game so ingrained that penalizing it is just stupid.
Either this rule does absolutely nothing but aggravate fans, or it takes away from one of the best aspects of the game. Regardless, NFL owners have made a mistake.
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