While others are following the contract holdouts of their favorite superstars, or counting the number of season-ending injuries to essential personnel prior to playing a single preseason game, I’m wondering how coaches, players and officials are adjusting to what I like to call “The Crown Rule”. The crown-of-the-helmet rule, which passed with flying colors (31-1) earlier this offseason, will have an impact on how open-field runners initiate contact with would-be tacklers and oncoming defenders.
Plays in the tackle box or around the line of scrimmage won’t change, those third or fourth and short plays will remain as we’ve always remembered them. Now imagine a crown on the top of every football players head, and if a ball-carrier, or defender, lowers his head and uses that crown (not the facemask or the sides of his helmet) to create “forcible contact” with another player, the offender will be flagged and his team will be penalized 15 yards from the spot of the foul.
We’ve had the off-season to digest the fact that things will change as far as open-field tackling is concerned; but how is this new rule impacting training camps around the league? Along with learning new offenses, new plays, and getting used to new players and coaches, everyone will be adjusting to a league determined on reducing the number of head-on collisions in the game. I’m wondering if coaches are emphasizing proper tackling techniques as well as instructing runners on how to approach an open-field tackle? It will be hard for runners to keep that head up… especially when every instinct in their body is telling them to lower their helmet and plow full-steam ahead!
The first chance fans will have to see officials enforcing the new rule will be in the preseason. Fans are going to see flags fly on hits that weren’t penalized a year ago, and hits they’ve come to know as good, clean football plays. Every coach I’ve ever had instructed me to keep the pads square, get lower than the person I was trying to tackle and SEE what I’m hitting! That’s fundamental tackling… basic football.
If a player follows those instructions, they’ll never get flagged under the new rule. If you’re looking at your target, you’ll make contact with your face mask, and sometimes the sides of your helmet, but never the crown. If you’re hitting someone with the crown of your helmet, you’re looking at the field-turf AND NOT the player you’re attempting to tackle.
I understand the pressure the league must be under when it comes to NFL players and head-injuries. We all know the NFL is a contact-league and a vicious sport on the human body. It’s easy for the trainers and doctors to diagnose and treat the injuries they can see (leg injury, shoulder injury, ligaments, broken bones, etc.) but it’s so hard to properly treat a player with a head-injury. How long should a player be withheld from strenuous activity, full-contact drills or games? It’s way too subjective, and truly is something the needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis. I’m in agreement with the National Football League on the development and enforcement of The Crown Rule, but the first time I see a flag on a questionable tackle, and that flag costs a team a win… I wonder how I’ll feel then.