The NFL owners have gathered at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix for their annual meetings. On the agenda are several rules and by-laws that have been proposed by the Competition Committee, including the creation of "Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8", which pertains to initiating contact with the crown of the helmet.
The proposed rule change reads as follows:
"It is a foul if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top/crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside the tackle box (an area extending from tackle to tackle and from three yards beyond the line of scrimmage to the offensive team’s end line). Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul."
Either side of the ball could receive a 15-yard penalty for the proposed infraction, but the group that has been most vocal in its opposition to the change are current and former NFL running backs.
Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith said the league has "lost its mind" with this proposed rule change. Fellow Hall of Fame running back and current NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk called the proposed change "a joke", a sentiment echoed by Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, who criticized the proposal on Twitter.
"The proposed rule change for running backs might be the most absurd suggestion of a rule change I’ve ever heard of," Forte wrote on Sunday. "In order to lower your shoulder you obviously have to lower your head. It’s a way of protecting yourself from a tackler and a way to break tackles. You can’t change the instinctive nature of running the football."
Defensive players, who have seen some rule changes implemented that go against their on-field instincts, are not exactly sympathetic to the plight of ball-carriers.
"Looks like Matt Forte is starting to see what it feels like to play defense...," wrote defensive end Lawrence Jackson, an unrestricted free agent who has spent the last few seasons with the Detroit Lions.
As a player positioned outside the tackle box, New York Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas has frequently been on the business end of the crown of a running back's helmet. Thomas is amused by the complaints of running backs.
"It’s hilarious seeing all these (running backs) complain about the rule change," Thomas wrote on Twitter, via Larry Brown Sports. "Welcome to the last 5 years of a defender’s life. We’re robots now. We can’t contact a (wide receiver) after five yards but they can contact us as long as it doesn’t create space AFTER five yards.
"A defender can’t blind side an offensive player, but an offensive player can blindside a defensive player as long as its not going back towards the ball."
Votes on the proposed rule changes are expected to take place on Tuesday or Wednesday. In order for the rule change to pass, it must receive 24 of 32 votes.