Jim Corbett, USA TODAY Sports
PHOENIX - Score another big gain for player safety in the NFL.
Players can no longer deliver forcible blows by lowering their heads and leading with the crown of their helmets as this week's most hotly debated proposal at the league meetings passed by a 31-1 vote Wednesday.
Also, the infamous "Tuck Rule'' was eliminated while a new coach's challenge rule dubbed "The Jim Schwartz Rule" was accepted.
But the hot-button topic was the crown-of-the-helmet rule since coaches are concerned how it will be officiated. However safety ruled the day as the new measure protects not only running backs but all players, including defenders who will be called for a 15-yard penalty if they lower their helmet to use it as a weapon.
"Somebody reminded me last night that Jim Brown never lowered his head when running,'' Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney said. "So it can be done.
"There was a lot of discussion. I wouldn't characterize it as contentious."
Competition committee co-chairman Jeff Fisher explained that by banning use of the helmet as a battering ram, the intent is to bring the shoulder back into the game.
"It does reinforce the importance of getting out in front of this before something tragic happens," New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "The Commissioner wants this issue resolved. The verbiage from the medical people who spoke to us in Indianapolis was not pretty (about potential injuries)."
Rooney said the Steelers were the lone team to vote against dumping the "Tuck Rule." The New England Patriots, who notably benefited from the obscure rule in a 2001 divisional playoff game when referee Walt Coleman enforced it to overturn an apparent fourth-quarter fumble by quarterback Tom Brady against the Oakland Raiders famous, abstained.
As for the Schwartz rule, it stems from last Thanksgiving's challenge flag faux pas by the Detroit Lions head coach. Allowing replay review even if a coach impermissibly challenges a play that's automatically reviewed, as Schwartz did when he red-flagged Houston Texans running back Justin Forstett's 81-yard scoring run after it was apparent Forsett was down by contact early in the play. But because all scoring plays are reviewed, Schwartz was not allowed to throw the red flag; yet by so doing, he negated use of replay, and Forsett's score stood in a game the Lions eventually lost in overtime.
Competition committee chairman Rich McKay called the rule "an anomaly,'' adding the proposal will ensure the play is reviewed and the right call is made.
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