The NFL has a duty to ensure the safety of their players. New rules are added almost every offseason to protect these physically daunting athletes.
Most rule changes appear to favor the offensive players. Quarterbacks are especially coddled by these rule modifications, as merely hitting the signal-caller on his helmet now warrants a penalty. Wide receivers have also benefited by the recent safety precautions instituted by the league, as defensive backs can’t be as physical with wideouts as in years past.
However, this past offseason, the “crown rule” was created to restrict running backs from initiating contact from the crown on their helmets on defensive players. Numerous halfbacks expressed their outrage when the rule was introduced in March, pointing out how initiating contact with a defender is a key part of their style of running the ball.
Stevan Ridley, the primary tailback of the New England Patriots, was asked by reporters over the weekend about the crown rule ,and if it would affect his running abilities for the upcoming season.
“I’m going out there to play the game the way I play it,” Ridley told reporters. “Hopefully I can do my best to stay safe and stay away from getting flagged from that penalty. But I have to play football, I have to protect myself, and I have to run hard.”
“As a runner we have to get our pads down and we have to get as low as we can to protect ourselves from defenders. So, if they call it, they call it. And I’m sure coach will have something to say about it, and we’ll go from there.”
Ridley is fully aware that head coach Bill Belichick will not tolerate constant violations of the same penalty. Yet, Ridley is right not to change his approach to his game.
Ridley was one of the best running backs in the league last season, rushing for over 1,200 yards and pounding in 12 touchdowns. Altering his running style would definitely be a mistake as his physicality is one of the strongest assets of his game.
Ridley broke 30 tackles last season and gained 716 yards after contact. Ridley needs to avoid getting flagged, but he would be wise to stick with the running technique that helped him become a professional football player.
For a Patriots offense that will be predicated on the running game, Ridley will need to carry the ball with his usual tenacity.