By a definitive 29-1 vote, NFL owners passed the proposed rule barring ballcarriers from initiating contact with the crown of the helmet outside of the tackle “box.” The reason may be a desire to improve safety in the game but the change did not have the endorsement of Bears running back Matt Forte, among others.
"The…rule change for running backs might be the most absurd suggestion of a rule change I've ever heard of," Forte tweeted (@MattForte22) before the vote.
"In order to lower ur shoulder u obviously have to lower ur head. It's a way of protecting ur self from a tackler and a way to break tackles. U can't change the instinctive nature of running the football."
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The change will indeed come with dissenters, supporters and challenges for officials, as reported by Ian Rappaport of NFL Network.
How the rule affects short-yardage situations in particular will warrant watching. But the stricture only applies outside of the tackle box, although dives for first downs and goal lines occurring at the edges of the tackles may pose difficult judgment calls.
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Infractions will come with a 15-yard penalty.
Forte responded to the rule change Wednesday.
Wow so they really passed that rule...last time I checked football was a contact sport. Calling bank now to set up my lowering the boom fund— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) March 20, 2013
Next year they'll probably be a no jumping over defenders rule... #loweringtheboomfund— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) March 20, 2013
Owners also voted to outlaw chop blocks inside the tackle box, a long-standing point of anger for defensive players. Also gone is the infamous “tuck rule” that classed some apparent fumbles as incompletions on the basis of the quarterback’s arm supposedly still being in the throwing motion.