NFL Competition Committee passes "Tuck" and Helmet rules

Justin K. Aller

After a heated debate by current and former players, the verdict is in on proposed rule changes affecting running back and quarterback techniques immediately.

Former St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk spoke openly at his current job at NFL Network about rule changes proposed for vote by the NFL's competition committee. As someone who knows about a running back's positional demands, he was unabashedly opposed.

The rule change involving running backs, which passed the vote today as well as changes to the infamous tuck rule, prohibits a running back from lowering their head into an engaging defender in the name of safety. A RB who lowers his head in such a manner will be penalized with a personal foul.

As Faulk points out, a RB lowers the plane of their shoulder pads when engaging a defender, attempting to maintain leverage through momentum at the point of impact. When the shoulders are lowered, the head goes with them because of an anatomical requirement. If a player must be concerned about keeping their head up, they will keep their shoulders up, leaving themselvess exposed - which Faulk believes will subject RBs to an even greater risk of injury as an open target for free-ranging defenders.

Faulk opines the league should abandon the use of helmets altogether if they are willing to surrender the long-term safety of one positional group for the sake of giving something back to the defense in exchange for the freedom being awarded pass-happy offenses. The removal of helmets would put every player back on an even playing field. Everyone would play to keep their heads out of the way, plus helmets would no longer be able to be used as weapons which would eliminate a majority of the league's annual head trauma cases.

The NFL's stance on safety will never allow the removal of helmets, but Faulk did make a very valid point; and he is not the only one to feel his way.

The CC also gave something else to defenses, by taking the tuck rule out of the book. The infamous tuck rule, drawn into the spotlight by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots against a still angry Raiders organization, protected a quarterback from trying to stop a pass mid-motion to re-tuck the ball, only to have the ball slip from his fingertips. Under the old rule, even if a QB was impacted during the motion resulting in what appeared as a fumble, it would be ruled an incomplete pass, regardless if the ball was intended for flight or not.

Now, a fumble will be a fumble. Since the implementation of automatic replays on any turnover, it makes sense why the league would want any disputable situations result in a turnover by the letter of the law, taking the responsibility of judgment off of the official at the immediate moment of the play, with replay allowing a more comprehensive course of study to ensure the proper calls are made on the field.

Expect plenty of backlash from running backs and quarterbacks league-wide over the next few days. BTSC will keep you upated on the Pittsburgh Steelers reaction to these changes.

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