NFL passes helmet rule; tuck rule eliminated

Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson escapes a

Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson escapes a tackle by Buffalo Bills linebacker Mario Williams in the first quarter. (Sept. 23, 2012) (Credit: AP)

PHOENIX -- Jeff Fisher said he received a phone call yesterday morning from Eddie George. The former running back was concerned about the new "no leading with the helmet'' rule the NFL had just adopted and wanted to check in with his former coach, a prominent member of the competition committee, to voice his displeasure.

Like a lot of current and former players and many fans, George was not in favor of eliminating any of the physical nature of the game.

"He took the position that this is going to be a difficult thing to enforce and a difficult way to play this game,'' Fisher said. "After a 15-minute conversation, he changed his mind. He said: 'That makes sense, I would be in favor of that.' ''

The NFL passed its newest safety measure, 31-1, Wednesday (the Bengals voted no). Now comes the campaign to convince players, coaches and fans that the rule will not destroy basic elements of the sport.

The new rule states it will be a foul if "a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top/crown of his helmet'' outside of the tackle box. It also states "incidental contact . . . shall not be a foul.''

The league has suggested it will be very forgiving in enforcing the rule and that ball carriers will be allowed to lower the level of their head but not drop their face toward the ground.

Framed as a safety consideration, the proposal was met with spirited resistance from teams earlier in the week regarding its implementation and how it would be officiated.

"They're not looking for it to be over-officiated,'' Tom Coughlin said. "They're looking for emphasis to be brought in when needed to keep people out of that position. Get out in front of this before something tragic happens.''

All six rule proposals passed, including one that will let officials review a play even when a coach throws an improper challenge flag (it corrects the scenario that burned the Lions last Thanksgiving). The tuck rule was abolished, 29-1. The Steelers voted against it; the Patriots and Redskins abstained.

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