Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

21 Mar 2013

2013 Amended Rules Analysis

Six proposed rule changes were presented to the 32 teams at the annual meeting this year, and all passed. The most famous and controversial of these was the new personal foul for any player leading with his head, but the other changes will also play an important role in the upcoming season.

The helpful but somewhat esoteric Football Zebras has a copy of the proposals, which include the draft rule changes.

No. 1: Red Flags for Some, Miniature Hochuli Bobbleheads for Others (15-9-1)

This changes the rules on interaction between "booth reviewable" plays (scoring plays, turnovers, muffed scrimmage kick recovered by the kicking team) and "challengeable" plays (everything else). Under the new rule, the officials are not barred from reviewing a booth reviewable play when a coach has illegally attempted to challenge. The penalty for initiating a challenge has been severely neutered, from penalizing challenges "when a team is prohibited from doing so" to "when a team has exhausted its timeouts." When paired with new language penalizing a time out for initiating a challenge "when it is not permitted to do so," the new scheme for illegal challenges is:

  • Coach throws challenge flag on booth reviewable play.
  • If the team has a timeout left, that timeout is charged. The play is still reviewed.
  • If the team has no timeouts left, the team is charged with a 15-yard penalty.

The competition committee is likely correct that the old penalties were too harsh. On the other hand, this change provides another method for head coaches to attempt to game the system. I expect a fair number of wasted timeouts in 2013 when coaches, faced with a booth review situation, throw a flag so they can jaw at the referee in the hope of the booth hitting the buzzer during the delay.

No. 2: Blocking and Contact on Field Goals and Try Kicks(9-1-3-b, 12-2-7-10)

Most outlets are reporting this change primarily as banning "overloaded" lines on try kicks and field goals. It does -- no more than six players may be on either side of the snapper at the time of the snap -- but it now bans players not on the line of scrimmage from pushing players on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation. I believe the latter change is far more significant, as linebackers and secondary players can no longer attempt to ram a defensive lineman into the offensive formation. This rule is unique in that it is the only unnecessary roughness penalty for contact with a teammate.

Additionally, the snapper on a field goal or try kick is now a defenseless player for purposes of unnecessary roughness, expanding the old rules against low contact with the snapper. For instance, helmet to helmet contact with a snapper who is in the process of snapping would not draw a penalty.

No. 3: The Tuck Rule Abolished (8-1-1)

This one is simple enough. The language has been changed to classify a passer's attempt to bring the football back toward the body after a forward motion as a fumble, rather than a forward pass. This makes enforcement of the forward pass rule much less subjective; absent force provided by another player affecting the passer, when the passer's forward motion ends, so does his attempt to throw the pass. After that attempt is completed, the usual rules for fumbling apply.

No. 4: New Numbers for Tight Ends and H-Backs (5-1-2-f)

H-back is now a recognized position in the formation. In recognition of the current prevalence of h-backs and tight ends, the acceptable numbers for those positions are now 40-49 and 80-89. This seems to be administrative, however, since 40-49 is part of the running back bloc, so there was no concern over a player being ineligible by number while lined up at the eligible tight end position.

No. 5: No More Legal Peel-Back Blocks (12-2-4)

A "peel-back" was defined as a player, who at the snap was in the tackle box, leaving the tackle box and then block low toward his own goal line. Since low blocks of this kind were legal between the tackles, a not-uncommon tactic of linemen who were beat was to dive low at the side of a defensive lineman (not a linebacker, a key distinction) who had passed the blocker by. This is another chip off the penumbral "free blocking" privileges enjoyed by linemen. This rule change may not have a significant effect on the play this year, but there is a distinct possibility the league is laying the groundwork for more significant blocking changes within the tackles, such as enforcing penalties for blocking in the back.

No. 6: Player Leading with the Crown of the Helmet (12-2-8)

This is by far the most controversial of this year's changes. Leading with the crown of the helmet is now personal foul by either the offense or the defense. Contact must be initiated with the crown of the helmet outside the tackle box to draw a foul. The tackle box is the space between the tackles back to the offense's goal line, but also includes the line of scrimmage extended (also used for free blocking rules), which reaches past the line of scrimmage three yards into the defense. As with all rules involving the tackle box, the box itself ceases to exist after the ball has been moved in a player's possession or by a loose ball outside of the box, so a player could not run outside, cut back in and lead with the crown of his helmet attempting to run up the middle.

While this rule change is laudable, it does not seem to be well-considered. The most pressing issue is the initiation requirement. This mirrors the rules against leading with the helmet against a defenseless player, but in practice will be quite different. With a defenseless player, it is clear how and when contact is initiated. When both players are prohibited from leading with the crown of their helmet, initiation is far murkier; the difference between a player attempting a tackle by leading with his helmet and a player whose head happens to be down when he comes into contact with a runner or blocker is extremely fine and will be nearly impossible to ascertain in real time whether the defender's contact was "forcible" (and therefore a penalty) or not. This will lead to inconsistent enforcement, and NFL fans are nothing if not vocal about their feelings regarding inconsistent penalty enforcement.

The initiation issue is thrown into stark relief when applying the "clean hands" rule for double fouls before the change of possession (14-3-2). Imagine a scenario where a ball carrier initiates contact with the crown of his helmet against the crown of a defender's helmet. The ball is loose and recovered by the defense. If the responsible official determines that the defender's contact was forceful, the turnover is disregarded and the down is replayed as a double foul. I am a great advocate of more subjectivity and latitude for officials on the field, but this is simply an impossible situation to administer fairly.

Several states' high school associations have enacted similar rules for ball carriers. While I do not have any real scientific data, as far as I can gather, and in my personal experience, these rules are completely ineffective due to their difficult enforcement. This is another example of a well-meaning rule enacted by the league in an attempt to safeguard the players that attempts to engineer gameplay rather than address the root problem: in the modern NFL, the helmet is a weapon. The uncertainty of enforcement will embolden players such as Matt Forte, who is already publicly discussing socking away cash to pay for eventual fines. Forte isn't expressing his joy at the risk of spinal compression or concussion. His outrage at the rule change is purely over the loss of a perceived advantage, one players will cling to as long as they possibly can.

Posted by: Mike Kurtz on 21 Mar 2013

57 comments, Last at 25 Mar 2013, 12:11pm by Dean

Comments

1
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 12:41pm

I don't get the comment at the end of #1. The penalty is only for when the play is automatically under review. If a coach throws a flag hoping for a review and it happens, no penalty. I suppose it could still be an issue during the last two minutes of either half. But then a coach would just call a TO anyway and hope for the booth to overturn a play call.

Also, hurray for #3. Long time coming.

6
by Mike Kurtz :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 1:56pm

Not quite. The rule applies when a replay can only be initiated by the booth, rather than a coach. The scenario to which I was referring is on, for example, a turnover. Only the booth can call for a review of a turnover. The other team is perhaps quick to run to the ball so as to cut off any booth review. The opposing coach, seeing this, throws a red flag. He knows that he will be penalized a time out, but his concern that the play might not be reviewed outweighs his valuation of a time out.

Previously, the coach had no recovery whatsoever; the play was rendered unreviewable and his team penalized 15 yards. Under the new rule, the coach could potentially be rewarded with an overturn based on a review that happened solely because he illegally threw a flag to postpone the next snap. That is a pretty significant shift in the rule's deterrent effects.

8
by Kulko :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 2:53pm

Well couldnt the coach not just call Timeout? And if he could not, than it serves the league right, if he throws a challenge flag in order to call a timeout.

15
by Turin :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 4:27pm

Correct, coaches could (and have) called a timeout to prevent the next play and give the booth more time to signal for a review.

18
by Mike Kurtz :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 5:16pm

They could, but the way the officiating crew reacts to a challenge flag is significantly different from how it reacts to a time out. Throwing an illegal challenge flag would result in the referee moving to speak with the coach to explain the rule. The coach then loses it, and now the referee has to calm the coach down and explain it again, then explain the penalty, and so on and so forth. It could conceivably be faster to administer than a simple time out. It could also be much longer.

I admit it's not a huge issue. It is something that bothers me, however. The disruption of a flag is a larger game management issue than simply calling a time out.

20
by Turin :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 5:46pm

The disruption of a flag is a larger game management issue than simply calling a time out.

Because previously timeouts and challenges were different things. This change means that during booth-review-only periods they will be identical. If the refs react differently post-change, that's on them - they will be under no obligation to do so however.

10
by pudds (not verified) :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 2:58pm

Why couldn't a coach simply call a timeout in that situation, rather than throwing an illegal challenge flag?

11
by Nick F (not verified) :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 3:03pm

Under the old rules couldn't the coach just call a timeout instead of requesting the review? That hasn't changed as far as I can tell. Why intentionally throw the flag when it will definitely cost a timeout when you could just call a timeout anyway? I could see this being an issue if they don't have timeouts but then they are subject to the 15 yard penalty. It seems like this rule is basically saying the teams can't try to stop play without actually using the device they are given that is designed to stop play.

12
by Nick F (not verified) :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 3:04pm

It clearly takes me way to long to type.

27
by LionInAZ :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 10:50pm

If only the booth can review a turnover, shouldn't that review be automatic, and if so, how can a team negate the review by running a quick play?

36
by snoopy369 :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 11:42am

The booth will certainly look at game film, but if it's a borderline review case (as many are) it may take them some time to come to a decision. Running a quick play prevents them from having time to decide to review it.

2
by Jeff George (not verified) :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 1:02pm

Good point on 12-2-8 that this rule is very hard to enforce fairly and consistently. Well, maybe it will be enforced consistently unfairly.

Any word on which official's job it is to watch primarily for rule 12-2-8? In other words, who watches "outside the tackle box". I think the guys who will be watching for this will be the umpire, linesman, and heads linesman. Anything in the backfield would be the referee. You could see this called downfield where the field, side, and back judges are.

A nitpicking point for sure, but I would think they'd have it conceptually laid-out before enforcing it.

What's the driving force behind 5-1-2-f? Defensive coaches feeling hoodwinked when teams go in single back but motion a tight end to the backfield as an H-back?

5
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 1:14pm

It may have to do with interactions with Rule 5, Section 3 (illegal to cover up a player with an eligible number). Not sure.

Mostly it seems to deal with the specific note regarding H-backs in the numbering scheme in the 2012 rules.

I'm curious how linemen who are kickers works (Suh, Groza). Do they report as eligible before the kick?

3
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 1:07pm

#6 is more of a point of emphasis than a truly new rule, as evidenced by the existence of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 6, point H (page 66) in the 2012 rule book.

For all of the hemming and hawing, offensive spearing has always been illegal, even though it's never called.

21
by Led :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 6:38pm

And I'd be surprised if it were called more than a handful of times this year. I see the argument about how hypothetically it could be difficult to enforce, but I just don't see it coming into play very often.

4
by snoopy369 :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 1:10pm

At the end of #2... For instance, helmet to helmet contact with a snapper who is in the process of snapping would not draw a penalty.

Can I assume 'not' is 'now'?

7
by nat :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 2:12pm

Your characterization of the non-tuck rule is at odds with the text. The end of forward motion doesn't end the passing motion. It's the "attempt to bring it back toward his body" that ends the motion.

This requires judging intent, and is very subjective. In practice, intent may be obvious. Time will tell.

9
by Kulko :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 2:57pm

That is my feeling exactly. The old rule was very objective (if the arm moved forward its a pass), but felt clearly wrong because subjectively in slow motion everybody could see that he was tucking it away.

the new rule is hoping, that at game speed its equally obvious,but more likely it will become a judgement call. On the plus side of course this is more within the spirit of the original rule, so its hopefully an improvement overall.

19
by Mike Kurtz :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 5:20pm

That isn't true. If a quarterback fakes a throw, but does not release the ball and keeps his arm still but fully extended, then 2 seconds later he is hit and the ball comes loose, it is still a fumble. The prior rule extended the passing motion to attempts bringing the ball back to the body. The new rule no longer has that extension, therefore the usual rule for fumbles vs. forward passes (that the ball be secured and move forward out of the throw) applies.

The new test is not subjective at all. If the ball is still in your hand after your throwing motion is complete, a loose ball cannot be a forward pass absent another throw. The prior rule required judging intent, as all sorts of motions that could have been classified as attempts could also be classified as ball carrying. The keyword for subjectivity, "attempt," was right there in the rule.

24
by MC2 :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 8:47pm

Yes, but there will still be situations where the QB is hit (and the ball comes loose) near the very end of the throwing motion, in which case it will be very difficult to determine whether the throwing motion is complete (in which case it would be a fumble) or "almost" complete (in which case it would be an incomplete pass).

25
by Insancipitory :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 9:14pm

A final decision on an indeterminant result is better than a nonsense result. The Tuck Rule produces occasional nonsense results.

29
by MJK :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 1:09am

Mike, I think you're wrong, and agree with the previous commenter on this. Under the old rules, it was simple and completely objective: if your arm was moving forward when the ball came out, it was a pass attempt. The Tuck "Rule" wasn't actually an additional rule (as I have tried to explain to many Raiders fans)...it was a clarification of a situation where people (and, to be fair, common sense) would raise a "well, but what if...". Basically, it said that the "forward motion of the arm = pass attempt" applies even when the QB may be trying to tuck the ball. Basically, it said that a ref shoudl never try to subjectively guess the QB's intent, but only look at the motion of the QB's arm.

While this did have the negative effect that sometimes a QB that might genuinely not be trying to pass would get a "get out of fumble free" card, it's no different from a QB who has the ball knocked out during a pump fake and got a similar card. The benefit was that it was completley objective--arm moving forward = pass attempt. In your case, if he fakes a throw and keeps his arm extended, and then gets the ball knocked out 2 seconds later, that would be a fumble, because the forward motion of his arm had stopped.

Whereas abolishing the tuck rule now is SUBJECTIVE. Refs are required to try to guess what the QB was trying to do when the ball came out. Imagine a QB is winding up to either throw or pump fake...we can't tell which initially. A defender hits his arm in towards his body as the ball is moving forward and the ball comes out. Refs now have to guess if he was tryign to tuck it when it came out, or if the awkward motion was initiated by the defender contact and it really was a pass attempt. And whichever way they guess, some fans and one team is going to feel robbed.

Maybe in practice the new rule is better because maybe in 99% of the situations you really can tell on replay, subjectively, what the QB was attempting to do, whereas the forward motion = pass attempt was only getting things right, say, 90% of the time. But to characterize the new rule as "less subjective" when it now requires a judgement of intent rather than a simple evaluation of motion is incorrect.

39
by RickD :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 12:51pm

" Basically, it said that the "forward motion of the arm = pass attempt" applies even when the QB may be trying to tuck the ball."

Tucking the ball isn't forward motion of the arm. If it were, the Raiders would have shut up a long time ago.

The current rule is not subjective at all. Nobody has to guess what the QB was trying to do. If his arm was moving forward, it's a forward pass attempt. If not, it's not. Where's the subjectivity? It doesn't matter if it's intended to be a pump fake or not. A pump fake cannot be differentiated from an intent to pass until the ball stops moving forward and starts moving backward, at which point any loss of the ball would be a fumble.

42
by nat :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 1:10pm

Unless you are using another source that you have not linked, you are just making this up. It's not in the replaced text or the proposed text.

Here is the main change. (The other change just restates this in a different place in the rules.)

Removed:
If, after an intentional forward movement of his hand, the passer loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body, it is a forward pass. If the player loses possession after he has tucked the ball into his body, it is a fumble.
Replaced with:
If, after an intentional forward movement of his hand, the player loses possession of the ball during an attempt to bring it back toward his body, it is a fumble.

In the old rule, the passing motion in this scenario ends when the ball is tucked into the QB's body, which is pretty much an objective event. There may be other ways to end the passing motion, but they don't apply to the scenario that this rule covers.

In the new rule, the passing motion in this scenario ends when the "attempt" to tuck the ball begins, regardless of the direction of the ball's motion. Since this is happening as the QB is getting hit, maybe from multiple directions, that's going to be a chaotic and arbitrary judgment of the QB's frame of mind -- and about as subjective as a referee's call can get.

Look, this proposed rule may or may not work out well. But don't claim that it's objective. That's the one thing it clearly is not.

This proposal is an attempt to remove objectivity from a rule because the objective criteria did not line up with many people's subjective judgment of what should or should not be a fumble. That's not a bad idea, necessarily. But I suspect that it will simply uncover what drives people to complain about the tuck rule and many rules in critical plays. Fans will continue to complain about close fumble calls when they don't go the way of their favorite team.

47
by Sifter :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 5:01pm

Can't agree with you. You say "In the new rule, the passing motion in this scenario ends when the "attempt" to tuck the ball begins". That's not what my reading of the rule says. To me the passing motion ends "after an intentional forward movement of his hand". Any attempt to tuck or not has nothing to do with it. Was his hand coming forward? Yes - pass. No - fumble.

You talk about it being chaotic around the QB and tough to subjectively see what's happening. How then is it easy and objective to see whether a QB has successfully tucked vs difficult and subjective to see whether his arm is coming forward? For a tuck you need to see the QBs arm and stomach (to see if he's successfully completed a 'tuck'), for the arm movement you need to see the arc of his arm. Seems to me in a mass of bodies it's going to be easier to see what is higher: the arm as it passes.

Lastly, I think the abolition of the Tuck makes sense from an idiot's point of view. By that I mean to Joe Idiot, it's always been hard to explain why it's not a fumble when a QB clearly isn't trying to pass ie. what's so special about tucking that it shouldn't be a fumble? What disadvantage were QBs getting under the old rule that we needed to reward a tuck? This way it's much simplier to understand conceptually ie. he's not passing? oh well it must be a fumble. No longer any additional question of whether he tucking it - or whether he had already completed his tuck etc.

You are right about people continuing to complain about close fumble calls though...they just may be able to do so with a slightly less confused look on their face!

49
by BigDerf :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 5:20pm

The problem becomes at what point in going from passing to tucking is the hand no longer coming forward as a pass? When the arm is bent at a 90 degree angle (_|)? Or at a 135 degree angle (_/)? And what happens when a defensive end is hanging from the quarterback and pulling him back, and the quarterback has to extend his arm fully straight attempting to throw to a safety valve right in front of him? It's going to look like he's trying to tuck the ball some percentage of the time.

The entire reason for the Tuck Rule's existence was to remove any judgement going into these calls. Getting rid of it just adds more to the officials' plates.

48
by BigDerf :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 5:13pm

I have to agree with the other comments left here that this new rule is wayyy more subjective than the old rule. The "tuck rule" was the way it was specifically to remove all judgement from the call. While people whine at obvious tuck rule fouls, we'll whine much more about questionable throwing motions gone horribly wrong.

51
by Smade (not verified) :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 8:41pm

My problem with the tuck rule was, when is the ball officially tucked. If the quarterback pump-faked and then never returned the ball to his body, but simply re-cocked the ball behind his ear, is the ball then tucked or can he run around in the backfield with no fear of fumbling?

53
by nat :: Sat, 03/23/2013 - 7:25am

The tuck didn't apply in all cases, only when the passing motion continues into a tucking motion.

For example, a pump-fake followed by a dropped handoff is a fumble. The ref still had to judge when the passing motion ended and the handoff action began.

So it didn't eliminate all judgment calls. But it did deal with a common one that was difficult to distinguish. We can hope removing the rule doesn't lead to endless argument about arm angles and where the QB was looking when he lost the ball. Because I don't have the slightest idea how you draw the line between a pump fake and following through to tuck the ball. It's a continuous motion in the same arc.

56
by Jerry :: Sat, 03/23/2013 - 9:16pm

I can't find it now, but a couple days ago, I saw a transcript of the Competition Committee press conference somewhere on nfl.com where (I think) Jeff Fisher said that officials were calling fumbles and then overturning them by rule, and that they felt the officials were generally making the correct distinctions. We'll see how it goes, but the league feels like they'll get it right.

13
by DEW (not verified) :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 3:41pm

I don't know about unfairness or consistency, but I'm quite certain that 12-2-8 will lead the league in whining, from players, from fans, and from sports media, both over calls made and calls not made.

17
by Dean :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 4:53pm

And that is different than the present how?

34
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 10:09am

Exactly. And in my opinion, that's at least partially what the NFL wants. It's all about PR.

The NFL is awash in lawsuits from former players alleging that the NFL didn't do enough to protect them from head injuries. The NFL's response has been to enact all sorts of rules designed to reduce the risk of head injuries. (Whether those rules are WELL designed is another discussion.) The players' (current and former) response to these changes is always negative. I believe "powder puff football" is the term Jerry Rice used. Any lawyer worth his salt will make sure that the judge preciding over those lawsuits gets a complete volume of all these quotes.

I don't know about anyone else, but my sympathy for the players over the concussion issue is a lot less than it used to be. Prime example, Eric Dickerson's reaction to the new rule --

"The league is trying to take the violence out of the NFL. That will never happen. What's next, take the stiff arm away?"

Eric Dickerson is one of the people suing the league over concussions. How can you sue the league for not protecting you while also making it clear that you don't want to be protected?

35
by Dean :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 11:19am

And it's not like Dickerson was the most rugged player ever. It's a toss up between him and Franco Harris on who'd win a race to get out of bounds fastest. Dude never met a sideline he didn't like.

40
by RickD :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 12:58pm

I had never heard that complaint lodged at Dickerson. Franco, certainly. Jim Brown famously threatened to attempt a comeback when he thought Franco was going to pass his career yardage total.
Not that I'm saying you're wrong - I'm just surprised. Dickerson was huge. Not a small back like Emmitt Smith or Barry Sanders.

43
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 1:13pm

What's funny is that Barry Sanders totally ran out of bounds. He did it all the time. (Granted, he also suddenly changed directions and cut back in from the boundary)

And no one gives him grief about it. Not Emmitt, not Earl Campbell, not Jim Brown, nobody. Maybe it's because he never bragged about how tough he was, or because he always admitted he did it, and why. Maybe it's because he retired at age 30 with all of his faculties intact, and can still walk. Unlike poor Earl Campbell.

45
by DEW (not verified) :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 3:45pm

Probably a perception issue. Franco Harris was a FULLBACK! with all that implies, the allegedly hard-nosed runner slamming into the line on I-formation dive plays, in an era of football where linemen broke their legs and stayed out there. Barry Sanders was a running back whose star power was based on making seventeen cuts in the time it takes to blink. Hard to work up a lot of offense at a guy whose game is allegedly based on dodging contact when he, well, dodges contact. And yeah, it helps a ton that he didn't claim to be something different.

46
by dryheat :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 4:58pm

1. That's more than a bit disingenuous. Most lead backs were fullbacks then -- Brown, Campbell, Czonka, Riggins, Nance, Cunningham, Little, etc. Whatever they were classified as doesn't impact their usage or expectations. Those guys weren't Vonta Leaches or Jerome Feltons back there. What a fullback implied then is not what a fullback implies now.

2. Franco was definitely not who you allege he was. He was not a power back, he was more DeAngelo Williams than Tom Rathman.

55
by MTR (not verified) :: Sat, 03/23/2013 - 2:53pm

At least as I remember it, defenders also didn't try to drill Sanders as much. Launch yourself at him with a full head of steam and the odds were good you'd only hit air - and then get to relive it over and over on a highlights reel.

44
by dryheat :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 2:46pm

Dickerson was definitely of the "survive and play another down" ilk. Hated getting hit. Walter Payton was too. At some point, being macho takes a back seat to not taking an additional shot from a guy who's trying to break you in half. Larry Czonka probably could have taken a lesson there.

Dickerson is an interesting guy. For all his gifts, and I think that his sophomore season might be the greatest RB season ever, he saw the NFL as a job opportunity, nothing more. I remember an interview right around the time he got traded to the Colts where he actually said that he hated playing football, but it was the only thing he could ever hope to do to make that much money. He's probably one of the greatest 5 RBs ever, understood the nuances of the position (I saw him give an amazing clinic once about how to run through contact), but didn't enjoy it. I wonder if winning more would have helped.

50
by Jerry :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 8:13pm

I think that most backs who lasted a long time did so in part by avoiding unnecessary contact.

I'll also mention that early in his career, Franco would run over opposing defenders. He got smarter/less macho later on.

54
by Intropy :: Sat, 03/23/2013 - 1:42pm

How often to you see a guy trying to run through one defender with another on his back and think "just go down and don't fumble?" Not only is it good for your career and health, but it's often tactically wise as well. There are times when that half a yard makes a big difference and times when it doesn't.

57
by Dean :: Mon, 03/25/2013 - 12:11pm

I definitely wouldn't put him in the top 5 greatest ever. Top 20, definitely. Top 10? Maybe. I'd have to think about it. Either way, it's pretty rare company.

14
by CBPodge :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 3:49pm

My thoughts are that its interesting that most of these rule changes favour defenders, and helmet to helmet is going to be a nightmare to ref in real time. Would be a good rule if those plays (and all defenseless player stuff) was quickly booth reviewed.

16
by Turin :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 4:35pm

Yeah, implementation matters here. We've already seen how difficult it is for refs to call helmet-2-helmet correctly in real time. While I don't really have any problems with the rule per se, I don't think the league has really given any thought as to how to ensure it's called correctly. As a fan that's extremely freightening; I've seen enough games decided by bad officiating.

23
by Jerry :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 7:03pm

Aside from the obvious benefit of eliminating a dangerous tactic, the league also answers defensive players who complained that the offensive guy could lead with his helmet, but they couldn't. Implementation will work itself out. It may be that all helmet fouls should be subject to booth review.

22
by andrew :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 6:58pm

As worded, if a player places his (non-football toting) hand on top of his helmet he could then lower his head and ram defenders without penalty (other than potentially mashed fingers) because there was no contact from the crown of the helmet.

28
by LionInAZ :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 10:56pm

If a player wants to risk breaking his hand just to make an illegal hit, I say go right ahead.

41
by RickD :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 1:00pm

Seriously.

I'd wager no RB ever considers leading with his hand on his helmet. Sounds like a great way to break a hand.

26
by jonnyblazin :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 10:48pm

I've seen a lot unnecessary roughness penalties called on safeties and LB's when a WR catches the ball over the middle and then ducks his head into the safety's shoulders. By the new letter of the law, would this be offsetting penalties?

Its a bit confusing since defensive players cannot make contact with the helmets of offensive players when defenseless, and offensive players can't initiate contact with their helmets.

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by MJK :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 1:15am

rather than address the root problem: in the modern NFL, the helmet is a weapon.

And how would you address this root problem? That's kind of the million dollar question, isn't it? If only it was as simple as passing a rule that said "don't use your helmet as a weapon".

I think this rule is an attempt to do that. I agree with you that it likely won't work, but I have a hard time trying to figure out what else to do about it. Other than ending football.

And don't go down the road of "make them play in soft helmets", or no helmets at all. That would be like saying that soldiers body armor is so good that they're surviving combat too well and suffering from TBI, so the way to deal with TBI is get rid of body armor and let them get shot instead. Getting rid of the hard helmets might decrease the occurrence of concussions and long term CTE, but would replace it with a higher occurrence of paralyzation, broken necks, skull fracture, heamatoma, and death.

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by Guest789 :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 1:27am

There are helmets on the market that have softer padding on the outside well still having a hard shell underneath, so they protect both players in a collision. The only issue is that they don't "look as good". Seriously. The technology exists.

-----

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

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by dryheat :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 7:53am

I think the problem with those helmets has been the increased friction between the helmet and another surface, which some suggest will lead to more/greater neck injuries.

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by dbostedo :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 9:31am

This is interesting, especially the comment from the manufacturer at the end of the "comments" section. They claim the outer coating is slick enough that even with the external padding, the "glancing" effect of the normal football helmet is maintained.

http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/05/21/new-device-could-help-li...

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by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 12:03pm

The issue isn't friction (friction has a complicated relationship with neck loads); it's pocketing. Soft surfaces yield, and it's that yielding that creates problems, irrespective of whether the soft surface is slippery or not.

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by Insancipitory :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 12:25pm

The large size would also create problems. The neck loading show up in other places from what I've read. Girls soccer, not because they play more violently, but because their neck muscles aren't as developed as males, so the forces involved lead to more rotation of the head, which leads to more concussions.

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by dbostedo :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 10:47pm

Agreed - but I believe most people are using "friction" is a less rigorous physics sense, and referring to any impediment to the surfaces sliding past each other. And I think the creators of the linked helmet are suggesting that it not an issue, and the helmet surfaces slide past each other as well as a hard shell helmet.