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NFL passes two safety-related rules, waits to vote two controversial proposals

The SportsXchange

The NFL owners passed two safety-related rules Tuesday at the NFL Annual Meeting, but tabled two more controversial rule change.

One rule would ban peel-back blocks, and the other would keep teams from overloading one side of the defensive line on point-after and field-goal attempts.

The much-discussed crown-of-the-helmet rule proposal did not come up for a vote, according to the NFL Network. After a lively discussion of the controversial proposal, a vote was postponed until Wednesday.

The proposed rule would penalize a player who initiated contact with the crown of his helmet anywhere outside of the tackle box. It has drawn criticism from running backs past and present, including Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk as well as current Chicago Bears rusher Matt Forte.

"I just don't think it's that big of a change," Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday. "As coaches, we've never taught the crown of the helmet. There's no coach that has taught the crown of the helmet. It's just not part of football, never has been.

"Anybody that has played the game knows that when you're going in on a higher hit you tackle with your eyes up, you see what you hit. That's what we've always taught our guys to do. When you front up a guy you do it with your eyes up. That's how you protect yourself, and you see what you hit. You're a better tackler. You don't tackle very well by dropping your head."

Denver Broncos coach John Fox said if the rule does pass, it won't affect many plays.

"I think they are just trying to minimize those types of hits and penalize or even fine those hits that they deem not sportsmanlike," Fox said. "I don't think it will be a lot. It wasn't a lot in the research. I think it was about 35 plays in the entire season. You get back to how you officiate it. These officials get put in tough spots. So we'll see how that part goes."

Also, a vote on the infamous "tuck rule" is expected to come up Wednesday with all indications that it would be eliminated. The tuck rule allowed a fumbled ball moving forward in the hand of a quarterback to be called an incomplete pass. It became famous in 2001 when Tom Brady dropped a ball while starting a passing motion during a snowy 2001 playoff game.

The owners did pass a rule that the peel-back or chop block would be outlawed inside the tackle box. By the approved rule change, such a block would be a 15-yard penalty.

This likely will be known as the "Brian Cushing Rule," after the Houston Texans linebacker who suffered a season-ending knee injury last season on an inside chop block.

"If my injury further prevents other injuries, then that's success and there can be some good to come out of my injury," Cushing recently said. "Hopefully, my injury does change the rule and in the future will prevent tons and tons of knee injuries."

As for place kicks, the overload rule was created because kick defense teams were rushing through the gaps created by lining up more defensive players than the offense could block. Defensive teams now can have just six or less players on each side of the snapper at the line of scrimmage. Players not on the line can't push teammates on the line into blockers, either.

After looking at a lot of tape, NFL Competition Committee members found too many injuries were caused by this formation.

"They will no longer permit defense rush players, team 'B' players, to push their teammates through the gaps and overload," St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a competition committee member, said before the meeting. "This proposal also creates a situation where the snapper now becomes a defenseless player and he gets helmet-to-helmet protection."
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