The NFL means well, but it's going too far, too fast.
I guess I would call myself a player-safety advocate, someone who's pulling for more precautionary regulations in football than the average fan. But the brakes undoubtedly need to be pumped in regards to the proposed rule that would "penalize a runner 15-yards if he initiates contact with the crown of his helmet outside of the tackle box (h/t ESPN)."
From that same report, "incidental contact with the crown of the helmet would not be a penalty."
Here's what Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte tweeted in response to the proposition:
The proposed rule change for running backs might be the most absurd suggestion of a rule change I've ever heard of.— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) March 17, 2013
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— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) March 17, 2013
U can't change the instinctive nature of running the football.— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) March 17, 2013
Preach, Matt. Preach.
Actually, I've always found it ridiculous that offensive players never get flagged for "spearing" or using their helmet as a "weapon" when defenders frequently get hit with the penalty, but this rule would put such a hamper on the flow of the game and would create even more widespread criticism of the already under-fire officials; it's not feasible whatsoever.
So, yeah, in theory, the proposal is exquisite, but that doesn't mean it's enforceable or should be implemented.
How in the world would NFL referees deem "incidental/non-incidental contact" at the end of a high percentage of running plays?
Sure, some head-first charges would be obvious, but the amount of gray area would be absolutely staggering.
There would be a handful of "controversial" offensive spearing penalties in every game, every week. The NFL doesn't need that. Fans don't need that.
Frankly, it stinks that the game of football is inherently violent.
I wish it wasn't.
But it is, and it's unfortunate how many former players have suffered and current and future players will suffer long-term negative effects from the collisions they experience on the field.
Adding a rule that essentially prohibits an offensive player from initiating contact with his helmet—something Forte correctly described as instinctive—would set an awful precedent for the game of football, one that could potentially be the catalyst for the NFL trending toward the touch football league no one wants.
Occasionally, the idea of something is better than the actual thing.
This is one of those occasions.