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NFL eliminates leading with the head, working on adopting targeting rule

The NFL is making big strides in trying to cut down contact to the head in football.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

While the general NFL public was busy celebrating a long overdue change to the NFL catch rules, the league owners were busy adopting a new rule change that could have a far bigger impact on the game. The league has made a small, but distinct change to the rulebook regarding contact with the head in the NFL. Here’s how it reads:

This may not seem like a big difference from what already was happening in the NFL. Leading with the crown of the helmet was already a penalty for any players outside of the tackle box. However, the key part of this rule change is this: “Applies to any player anywhere on the field.”

That means this rule applies to the offense, as well, and inside the tackle box, too. Gone are the days in which running backs will be allowed to lower their head and truck a player with their head first.

The reasoning for the rule is pretty simple: Player safety. Here’s’s Austin Knoblach on the research that led to the change:

The rule comes after injury data released by the league in January showed a 13.5 percent increase in diagnosed concussions from 2016 to 2017 (243 to 281) over the preseason and regular season. The increase comes after 28 percent of concussion evaluations were self-reported by players -- a nine-point increase over 2016.

But perhaps the bigger bombshell from the owners meeting is that they are looking to adopt a targeting infraction—a controversial rule adopted by the NCAA that immediately ejects any player that makes forcible contact to the head of a defenseless player. In college, that decision is subject for review, but enforcement has still been inconsistent.

According to Knoblach, “nothing regarding a targeting rule has been finalized by the NFL,” but the NFL and its owners are continuing to work on a solution.

If player safety is one of the true staples of this league, this measure could go a long way to showing their commitment. But they risk alienating some fans that believe the rule is too harsh and too subjective. Would you approve of the rule change?


Do you want the league to adopt a targeting rule?

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