A new rule proposal has Emmitt Smith frustrated. The NFL's Competition Committee wants runners to be penalized for lowering their heads to initiate contact, and the league's all-time leading rusher believes that contradicts what players are taught from the get-go. In fact, Smith has indicated he feels such a change could actually expose offensive players to more injuries while having a negative impact on the game as a whole.
In light of that, we caught up with Smith Monday to further analyze the proposed change. We also jumped into some other topics, such as defensive schemes, free agency (or the lack thereof) in Dallas, Dancing with the Stars and his battle with gout.
Bleacher Report: You've already come out against the rule change proposal that would prevent offensive players from initiating contact with the crown of the helmet. Do you think too many of these proposed rules come from people who never played the game?
Emmitt Smith: I have to think that way because for someone to come out with a rule that an offensive player cannot lower his head to protect himself, especially from a running back perspective, is just completely out of touch with the game itself. And that in itself is a problem. Because now what you're doing and telling kids around the country is you must run around with your chest up in the air and expose your rib cage and expose your kidneys, your stomach, your internal organs and everything else. I just totally disagree with it.
B/R: Yeah, it certainly seems to contradict the way in which we're taught to play the game.
ES: Right, it's totally against what people are teaching players. And the way I was always taught, even from a young age, you run behind your shoulder pads. And if I'm running behind my shoulder pads, that means I'm running with a forward lean. If I'm running with a forward lean, that means my head is the heaviest thing on my body at the time it's leaning forward. And at the end of the day, my head is gonna be the first thing to make contact. That's the part that I think is totally missing.
B/R: What are your thoughts on the multitude of rule changes that have been made in recent years to further protect the players?
ES: I think they're going a little too far in certain areas. But I think for recent rules [like] hitting defenseless receivers, those are great rules to have. The adjustments on the kickoff returns, those are great rules to have to protect players. But when it comes down to the simple fact of a running back turning a corner, this is how the game is gonna change. Running back turns the corner, it's third-and-two. He needs the first down for his team to continue the drive so they can get in field goal position. At the end of the day, he turns the corner and he knows he can't lead with his head to get the first down, the first thing he's gonna do is run out of bounds. ... That's what this rule's gonna do. It's gonna change the game in that way. Even if his competitive spirit builds up and he needs the two yards, he's gonna lower his shoulders, go head-first, hit somebody, get the first down and here comes a flag. How you gonna explain that to the fans? It doesn't make sense.
B/R: Dallas is switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Did you prefer facing 4-3 defenses or 3-4 defenses? Did it make a difference?
Do you think the NFL should adopt a penalty for leading with the helmet on offense?
ES: Yes, yes, it makes a big difference for me. As a matter of fact, I loved running up against 3-4 defenses. Bill Belichick made it very, very sophisticated, along with [Dick LeBeau]. So that 3-4 defense creates gaps for backside cuts and running back cuts. All I relied upon was my center controlling the nose guy. And if my right guard and center double up to the left-side linebacker and the right tackle and the tight end come down and cut the front side off, I have one-on-one situations with the linebacker, which my fullback Daryl Johnston was able to manage on his own and gave me plenty of running space in the middle. That's the way it used to be done, but now defenses have gotten very sophisticated in how they deal with those situations.
B/R: How weird is it seeing the Cowboys not being involved in free agency?
ES: Yeah, it's been very weird. When you don't have money to chase, you can't chase nothing. At the end of the day I think the Cowboys are somewhat content with what they actually have and they're gonna try to make it up in the draft. Hopefully that will be enough to sustain them. I don't really and truly believe that the Cowboys are that far away from becoming a very competitive football team. We definitely need an upgrade in the offensive line so we can run the football effectively as well as protect the quarterback. But I think we have quality football players.
B/R: Jacoby Jones is doing Dancing with the Stars, which gets underway this week. I'm sure you'll be following along. Have you had a chance to talk to Jacoby?
ES: No, I haven't had the chance to talk to Jacoby Jones, but I anticipate that he's gonna be fine tonight. He'll probably surprise a lot of people, which is cool. ... This is one of those relief moments where you get to say, "I'm tired of doing it in this studio. Now let's get dressed up, get in our costumes, look good, look sexy, however you want to look and let it all out."
B/R: Why do athletes do so well on that show?
ES: That's a very good question. I would attribute a lot of the success that we've had on the show not only to our ability to work hard, but our ability to try to learn to do something different and wanting to improve week in and week out.
B/R: We touched on this last time we talked, but what's the latest on your quest to raise awareness for gout sufferers?
ES: Gout is another form of serious, painful arthritis. And the cause root of gout is high uric acid levels in the body. Point blank, it's simple. And if you're a person out there that's suffering from gout or have a flare-up occurring, I would just say get to your local physician and allow them to give you an evaluation. ... It can be very painful. It is very painful. I know, I've been through it. And I want those people out there to know that they're not by themselves. So get on it, protect yourself and go out there and alleviate the pain. Because it is very, very painful.
B/R: I'm guessing you have lots of endorsement opportunities. Did you pick a cause like this because it hits close to home?
ES: That is a huge, huge reason why I teamed up with Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Because I don't like to endorse things just to be endorsing it. I like to be truly not only the club president but I like to be the club user, too. I only like to endorse things that I truly believe in.