Tuck rule abolished, leading with crown of helmet made illegal

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

The infamous tuck rule is no longer. (USATSI)
The infamous tuck rule is no longer. (USATSI)

PHOENIX -- The tuck rule is dead. Despite the love shown to one of the more ridiculous rules in the NFL by the influential Robert Kraft, the tuck rule is no more, having been abolished by the league at the 2013 NFL owners meetings. Along with that, the owners voted to pass a rule prohibiting runners and defenders from leading with the crown of their helmets.

It was a stunningly quick voting session by the owners on Wednesday, with the meetings wrapping up by 9:30 a.m. local time, suggesting that all the proposals passed by significant margin. (Some reports indicate it passed 31-1.)

One of the more obvious selections for passage was a rule to fix the Thanksgiving challenge fiasco that the Lions encountered when Jim Schwartz tried to challenge a Justin Forsett touchdown and therefore negated the official's ability to review the scoring play. Instead, a challenge of a play like that will result in a 15-yard penalty with the original play being reviewed.

That rule needed to be changed, obviously. And at least one team is happy about it:

Oakland was on the losing end of the play in question, when a Tom Brady fumble was ruled an incompletion during a January 2002 playoff game. The Patriots abstained from voting on the amendment, as did the Redskins, likely because Washington GM Bruce Allen was with the Raiders at the time of the tuck-rule game. The Steelers were the only team that voted to keep the tuck rule in place.

The leading-with-the-crown-of-your-helmet rule is a much more controversial new rule. Both offensive and defensive players who lead with the top of the helmet will be flagged 15 yards in certain, specific circumstances. Should both players be flagged, the penalties will offset and the teams will replay the down.

"It is a foul if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top/crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside the tackle box (an area extending from tackle to tackle and from three yards beyond the line of scrimmage to the offensive team's end line)," the new rule -- Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8 -- reads. "Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul."

It'll be interesting to see whether officials can accurately interpret and apply the rule during the coming season. At the very least, we know that a good number of running backs around the NFL, both past and present, aren't happy about it.

In addition to those three main rule changes, the NFL passed a rule that will allow tight ends and H-backs to wear numbers 40-49 as well as 80-89 and a rule that makes "peel back" blocks illegal.

"A player who is aligned in the tackle box when the ball is snapped cannot initiate contact on the side and below the waist against an opponent if (a) the blocker is moving toward his own end line; and (b) he approaches the opponent from behind or from the side," Rule 12, Section 2, Article 4 now reads.

 
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