Rules change proposals on tap
A handful of rules changes will be proposed at next week's NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.
Among the most important:
* The competition committee has agreed on a measure that would make it a penalty for any player to initiate contact with another player by lowering his head and using the crown of his helmet to make contact in the open field. This would not apply within the tackle box.
Many running backs - Adrian Peterson, in particular - and receivers like to lower their heads and make contact with would-be tacklers as a way to fend off the opponent. But the league, which is increasingly sensitive to players using their helmets to hit other players because of the potential for concussions, wants to "take the head out of the game," as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell likes to say.
* The "tuck rule" would be eliminated if owners agree to the proposal. The most controversial application of the rule came in the 2001 playoffs, when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady appeared to fumble late in a game against the Raiders. But the play was ruled an incompletion because officials cited the "tuck rule," when it was determined that Brady had pumped his arm in an attempt to throw but tried to pull the ball back to his body. Similar plays would now be ruled a fumble. Eleven years too late for Raiders fans, however.
* A change would be made to the coach's challenge system. In a Thanksgiving Day game last year, Lions coach Jim Schwartz threw his challenge flag to protest a touchdown scored by Houston's Justin Forsett, who appeared to be down by contact. He got up and ran for a touchdown. The play would have automatically been reviewed because all scoring plays and turnovers are reviewed. But because Schwartz illegally threw the challenge flag, the play wasn't reviewed and the touchdown stood.
If the rules proposal passes, a team would be assessed a timeout if the coach illegally throws the challenge flag. If the team doesn't have any remaining timeouts, it would be assessed a 15-yard penalty.