New Rules Emphasis

photo by Cole Pepper
photo by Cole Pepper

by Cole Pepper
August 4, 2013

There is no dramatic change to the rules this year. No implementation of instant replay, no elimination of the “in the grasp” rule. But most of the rules changes are focused on one thing: player safety.

That’s the league approved phrase. Some would call it another step toward turning the sport into basketball on grass. I’m not going there, but the NFL is certainly taking steps to take big collisions and plays that could lead to concussions out of the game.

19-year NFL veteran referee Ron Winter addressed a group of writers and broadcasters after a league produced video that outlined rules changes include one notable change that will be most obvious to fans.

A player on offense or defense cannot hit another player with the crown of the helmet outside of the tackle box if three things occur: the player must line up the opponent, lower his head and then deliver a forceable blow with the crown in order to be flagged 15 yards for unnecessary roughness and would face potential league discipline.

Picture an Adrian Peterson bulldozer run that was finished with Peterson lowering his head to bowl over a defender in a one-on-one scenario.

Other rules changes:

  • On field goal attempts, the defense can not have more than six players on one side of the center, cannot push down linemen into offensive line, and may not block below the waist on punts, FG or PAT.
  • Peel back blocks are not longer legal anywhere on the field.
  • All non kickers/punters must wear knee and thigh pads.
  • The tuck rule has been modified. Now, forward passing motion ends as the quarterback begins the tuck.
  • Plays can still be reviewed after a coach erroneously challenges the play (remember the Lions and Texans last Thanksgiving).

Other points of of emphasis:

  • Increased focus on penalizing players hitting opponents late around the pile or on the ground
  • Facemask by a runner: if the runner twists or grabs the facemask, without immediately releasing (runners, tacklers, players treated the same way) it is a penalty. The runner cannot strike defender with a forceable blow.
  • Taunting–throwing the ball, spiking or spinning the ball are considered taunting.

One final note on the read option. Winter clarified how the rules would be interpreted in regards to protecting the quarterback who is running the trendy play.

“A quarterback is a runner until after he’s cleared the handoff,” Winter said. “He can be hit, then, once he clears the handoff, he becomes a quarterback with protection, almost like a defenseless player.”