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NFL Makes Significant Rule Change, Banning Players From Lowering Heads To Initiate Contact

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- With the owners meeting in Orlando this week, much attention has been cast on the changes made to the definition of a catch. But the NFL made a change that almost certainly will have a much larger effect on the game.

According to Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay, who's the chairman of the competition committee, it will now be illegal for any defensive player to lower his head and initiate contact with his helmet.

The rule figures to significantly impact both sides of the ball. Defensive players instinctively lower their head when attempting to make tackles, while running backs and ball carriers often lower their heads in an effort to run through opponents. Now both sides of the ball figure to cause a lot of flags to fly.

Plus, there's more. Any player deemed to have committed this penalty could be ejected from the game.

The rule comes, clearly, as an effort to alleviate brain trauma suffered on the field of play. And with Ryan Shazier suffering a career-altering injury in a prime time game last season, the NFL perhaps felt an added urge to make a change.


Still, teaching professional football players to re-learn the way they've been tackling opponents since they were children is not an easy task, and the results at least in the short term will be an increase in penalty flags and some ejections that lead to a lot of unhappy people.

McKay made it clear that the rule is quite broad.

"This has very little requirement to it," McKay said Tuesday. "This is simply if you lower your head to initiate contact and you make contact with an opponent it's a foul."

The specifics of the rule -- including how it will be enforced, and the severity of penalties -- will be discussed in the coming months, according to Tom Pelissero. Clearly, the people in charge will have a lot to work through in order for such a massive change to the sport to be implemented even remotely smoothly.

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