NFL Rule Changes

The NFL voted to change three rules today before ending their winter meeting in Phoenix.

The first rule change was more of a rule elimination, as the NFL voted 29-1 to eliminate the tuck rule with the New England Patriots and Washington Redskins abstaining.

The most infamous instance of the tuck rule benefited Tom Brady and the Patriots in the 2001 playoffs. During a crucial possession, a ball that looked like it was fumbled by Brady was ruled an incomplete pass. The Oakland Raiders lost that game, and the Patriots went on to the Super Bowl. Now, that ball would be ruled a fumble, even if the quarterback was bringing it back towards his body.

Owners also voted to change a review rule. Under the previous rule, if a coach threw the challenge flag on a play that was going to be automatically reviewed, that team would be penalized 15 yards and the play would not be reviewed. Now, if a coach throws the challenge flag on an automatically reviewed play, the team is charged a time out, but will get the time out back if the play is overturned.

But the most talked about rule change regarded hitting with the crown of the helmet. The owners opted to penalize a player 15 yards if he lowers his helmet and uses the crown as a weapon if that player is more than three yards down the field or outside the tackle box. If both the offensive and defensive player lower their heads and lead with the crown of the helmet, each player will draw a penalty. The vote was 31-1, with the Cincinnati Bengal as the lone hold out.

The rule will most adversely affect running backs, and has drawn criticism from players, commentators, and former players-turned-commentators.

As with previous rule changes about leading with the helmet, the NFL cited player health and safety as the biggest reasons for the change.

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