PHOENIX -- Hall of Famer Jim Brown, the author of some of the most punishing and ferocious runs in football history, said he has no problem with the NFL's proposed rule that would prohibit anyone carrying the ball from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet outside of the tackle box. The reason? Because he never led with his head anyway.
"I didn't use my head," Brown, 77, said Monday at the league's annual owners meetings in Arizona. "I used my forearm. The palm of my hand. And my shoulder. And my shoulder pads. I wasn't putting my head into too much of anything. I don't think that's a good idea. At least it doesn't sound like a good idea to me if I'm not guaranteed that my head is going to be strong enough to hurt somebody else and not hurt myself."
The NFL's Competition Committee is proposing the rule this week, and it almost assuredly will be passed, given the climate of player safety the league has adopted in recent years. Some players, though, have expressed disappointment in it. Even the NFL's all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith, is an outspoken opponent.
"As a running back, it's almost impossible [to not lower your head]," Smith said in a Dallas radio interview last week after the proposal was announced. "The first thing you do is get behind your shoulder pads. That means you're leaning forward, and the first part of contact that's going to take place is your head, regardless."
Brown's response to that? "Emmitt probably used his head," he said with a chuckle. "I don't know."
Brown did say he is unaware of any other running back who did, though.
"Nobody I ever broke bread with, and I see players all the time, talked about using their head running the football," Brown said. "I've seen Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson and Marcus Allen and Franco Harris and we've all been together -- we were all together at the Super Bowl -- and no one talked about using their head."
Twenty-four of 32 votes are needed to pass the rule.
"It's not as big a change as you think because I don't think there are that many plays that will be affected by it," Giants president and CEO John Mara, a member of the Competition Committee, said at the meetings. "We're trying to take the head out of the game, trying to get players to think a little bit differently. We don't want the helmet to be used as a weapon."
Notes & quotes: The league is working to resolve a scheduling issue with its opening night game, traditionally hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion. In this case it would be the Ravens, who would kick off the season Sept. 5. But the Orioles are hosting a baseball game that night, too, which would create parking havoc because the franchises share the majority of their lots. Commissioner Roger Goodell said there is some negotiating with baseball to make the Orioles game earlier and start the Ravens game later. He said moving the game up a day to Wednesday -- as was done last year for the Giants to avoid a conflict with the Democratic National Convention -- is not an option for the league because Rosh Hashanah begins Sept. 4 . . . The league settled a class-action lawsuit with retired players over the use of their images by NFL Films. The NFL will contribute $42 million over eight years to a Common Good Fund to help former players, and the former players (anyone who has been on an active roster) will be represented by an independent licensing agency . . . The Giants were awarded a seventh-round compensatory pick (253rd overall) in the upcoming NFL draft.