NFL Owners Approve Rule Change Aimed At Improving Player Safety

"Lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet" is now a foul in the NFL.

The NFL's annual league meetings wrapped up Wednesday, and in addition to approving an overhaul to the catch rule on Tuesday, owners also approved several other changes, perhaps most significantly a rule aimed at improving player safety that states, "Lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet is a foul." 

"For us this is a pretty significant change," Rich McKay, the Chairman of the NFL's Competition Committee said at a press conference in Orlando. "This one technique, we saw so many hits when a player lowered his head and delivered a hit and either hurt himself or the player he was hitting… It was time for a change of this magnitude."

While it remains to be seen exactly how this rule will be enforced, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and his coaching staff have been focused on taking the head out of the game for years, teaching shoulder-based tackling not just to their players, but through clinics and a tackling video, to youth and high school coaches around the country. 

"We're trying to teach all aspects of our game to take the head out, understand what the strike zone is all about, understand how it is to initiate contact with the shoulder and all of that, in all aspects of the game, not just tackling," Carroll said Tuesday. "We'll continue to stand for that; it has been something that has worked out for us. We have tried to kind of forge ahead in this where other teams maybe have not, and I hope we can have an impact. I think we're onto something, and we care so much about our players that we make our decisions accordingly, and hopefully it'll continue to work out."

Carroll talked about that prior to the vote to change the helmet-to-helmet rule, but while he didn't speak specifically to that change, he made it clear that it is important the league continues to focus on player safety. 

"The league is absolutely dedicated to figuring out how to make the game as safe as possible, but to continue to do that it's going to call for some bold moves along the way here, and I think we're poised to do that," Carroll said. "The commissioner is so much on topic, I hope that we'll just keep making the efforts. It has been really important in our game and in particular on our team in the way we do things to try to say at the cutting edge of safety and security and all of that, I hope some of the things we have done will influence some others."

Below is the full list of approved changes for 2018:

Approved 2018 Playing Rules Summary

1.     By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the playing rule that changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line.

2.     By Competition Committee; Changes standard for a catch.

3.     By Competition Committee; Makes the penalties for Illegal Batting & Kicking the same.

7.     By Competition Committee; Authorizes the designated member of the Officiating department to instruct on-field game officials to disqualify a player for a flagrant nonfootball act when a foul for that act is called on the field.

9.     By Competition Committee; Eliminates the requirement that a team who scores a winning touchdown at the end of regulation of a game to kick the extra point or go for two-point conversion.

10.     By Competition Committee; In overtime, if the team that possess the ball first scores a field goal on its initial possession and the second team loses possession by an interception or fumble, the down will be permitted to run to its conclusion, including awarding points scored by either team during the down.

11.     By Competition Committee; Lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet is a foul.

Approved 2018 Bylaws Summary

1.     By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the liberalization of rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club's facility.

2.     By Buffalo; For one year only, amends Article XVII, Section 17.4 to liberalize the rule for reacquisition of a player assigned via waivers.

4a.     By Competition Committee; Amends Article XVII, Section 17.16 to permit clubs to trade players from Reserve/Injured.

5.     By Miami; Amends Article XVII, Section 17.1 to remove the requirement that a non-vested player be placed on waivers to be removed from the 90-player roster prior to the roster reduction to 53 players.

6.     By Minnesota; Amends Article XVIII, Section 18.1 to replace the 10-day postseason claiming period with a 24-hour period.

9.     By Competition Committee; A player who is designated for return is eligible to be activated after eight games, not eight weeks.

10.     By Competition Committee; Lengthens the period to execute an Injury Settlement from five business days to seven business days.

11.     By Competition Committee; Changes the deadline to reinstate players from certain Reserve List categories.

12.     By Competition Committee; Updates Reserve/Military List procedures to reflect the current League calendar.

Approved 2018 Resolutions Summary

G-5.     By Competition Committee; For one year only, permits an interested club to contact a Vested Veteran before clubs have been notified of the player's termination via the Player Personnel Notice if (i) the players is not subject to the Waivers System and, (ii) the employer club has publicly announced the player's release.

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