Helmet Use, Illegal Challenge Procedure Highlight Rules Changes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 21, 2013 – 10:39 am

NFL owners held their annual Spring meeting this week in Arizona. Those meetings have concluded, and much of what the owners discussed during the week was with regard to rules changes. Here is a summary of some of the changes…


– The rule change with the most discussion – and controversy – has been adopted in the name of player health and safety, and the passage of this rule represents a significant victory for the NFL in its effort to promote and enhance player safety. The new helmet rule states the following: “Contact with the Crown of the Helmet: 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 of the tackle box. Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul.” This rule has been met with intense public opposition by the public and both current and former players. In the end, though, this is a rule that will have a much more  significant on player safety than it will on how players play the game and fans view the game. This rule does not disallow a ball-carriers ability to lower his pads – and, thus, his head. Rather, it prohibits ball-carriers (or any player) from using the crown of the helmet (not the face mask, hairline or any other part of the helmet) as a weapon. An infraction of this rule will be the result of an obvious action by the player, not the result of a common play.

– The rule regarding the illegal use of a challenge by coaches was amended. Under the new rule, every time a coach initiates a replay, his team will be charged a timeout (the challenging team still gets the timeout back if the challenge is successful). If the play is challenged illegally, the team will lose a timeout — even if the challenge is successful. If a team is out of timeouts, it will be penalized 15 yards for illegal challenging a play, but the play still will be reviewed. The impetus behind this change came from the Thanksgiving Day game between the Lions and Texans in which Detroit Head Coach Jim Schwartz challenged a play that was going to be automatically reviewed. By rule, that was an illegal challenge, and also by rule any play that was illegally challenged was then not reviewed by officials. The result of that incident was a TD for the Texans that clearly would not have been upheld by replay.

– A rule that has become known as the “Tuck Rule” was eliminated. The Tuck Rule dictated that a fumbled ball that was moving forward in the hand of a QB was to be called an incomplete pass. The most famous instance of this rule came in 2001 during a playoff game between the Patriots and Raiders when Charles Woodson hit and sacked Tom Brady, causing the ball to come loose. Oakland recovered, but the Tuck Rule gave possession back to New England. They went on to tie the game, then win it, and eventually go on to win the Super Bowl.

– NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that the Pro Bowl will remain a part of the NFL calendar. The 2014 Pro Bowl will take place on the Sunday between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, and Aloha Stadium in Honolulu will be the host.

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DT Star Lotulelei Shines At Pro Day

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 21, 2013 – 6:09 am

Star Lotulelei’s ability to play football has never been a question. The 6-4, 325-pound DT was a 2-time First-Team All-Pac 12 selection at the University of Utah and he was also a Morris Trophy winner in 2011. What has become a question, though, is Lotulelei’s health.

During Lotulelei’s medical evaluation at the Combine last month, an echocardiogram revealed that his left ventricle was pumping at below average levels (44%). Officials would not let Lotulelei continue with Combine activities, so he went back to Utah for more testing. Those developments caused teams to take a step back and re-evaluate Lotulelei’s pro prospects.

Lotulelei was cleared by doctors to participate in Utah’s pro day, which occurred on Wednesday. And it should come as no surprise that he impressed teams with his performance. Lotulelei hoisted the 225-pound bench press 38 times, registered a 30-inch vertical leap and clocked a 4.65 in the shuttle. The 38 reps would’ve tied him for the most in his position group at the Combine.

Star Lotulelei, Isi Sofele

Those numbers are very good, and they certainly confirm the feelings most scouts and coaches had about Lotulelei being one of the top defensive linemen in this year’s draft. So, once again, Lotulelei’s ability to play football isn’t a question. It’s his health that is the question.

This is the type of issue that will divide teams. A player with a medical condition such as the one Lotulelei has may be researched and cleared by one team, but a different team may look at the same information and flag the player. While NFL teams do share much of the medical information they obtain at the Combine, different teams have different thresholds of tolerance for different issues.

Where NFL teams – and, specifically, the Vikings – stand on the issue of Lotulelei and his heart condition remains to be seen. What we do already know is that Lotulelei looks to be a future star in the NFL if the heart condition doesn’t plague him.

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