NFL Ends Tuck Rule, Passes Ban on Running Back Crown-of-the-Helmet Hits

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2013

The NFL made two major rule changes on Wednesday that will affect games throughout the 2013 season and beyond. According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the rules committee will end the "tuck rule" and prevent running backs from leading with their helmets:

The tuck rule is officially known as NFL Rule 3, Section 21, Article 2, Note 2, described by Mark Maske of The Washington Post:

A quarterback's throwing motion begins when he raises the ball in his hand and begins to move his arm forward; that motion doesn't end until the quarterback tucks the ball back against his body, making him a runner. If the ball comes loose any time in between, it's an incomplete pass, not a fumble.

In other words, a fumble is really an incomplete pass if a quarterback intends to bring the ball back to his chest.

This rule became famous in a 2001-02 playoff game between the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots. Late in the game, Tom Brady dropped back to throw the ball, but Charles Woodson of the Raiders knocked it loose.

After review, it was apparent that Brady was bringing the ball down. The Patriots were able to keep it in a crucial situation and eventually won the game. They went on to win the Super Bowl that season.

From now on, quarterbacks will have to be in a throwing motion for the pass to be ruled incomplete.

The other rule change by the competition committee is a bit more controversial. It states that running backs will no longer be allowed to hit defenders with the crown of their helmet, essentially using it as a weapon to break tackles.

Of course, this will have a huge impact on how runners are able to finish plays. Some powerful players like Adrian Peterson have used this style for years and could be in for a rude awakening.

Peterson's coach, Leslie Frazier, is even concerned that it will leave the legs vulnerable. According to Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune, the coach said:

I think it makes it tough for the running backs. It’s such an instinctive motion to duck that head to try to protect yourself. I think it puts those backs in a vulnerable state if they can’t lower their pads. And the only way to lower your pads is to get your head down.

Some NFL running backs are already voicing their displeasure with the latest changes.

Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears had this to say on Twitter:

It seems like paying the eventual fines will be easier for him than changing the way he plays.

Still, this new rule is a way for defenders to better protect themselves after many league changes went against them over the past few years in regard to safety.  

As with any new rules, expect some controversy in the coming years as quarterbacks, running backs and referees alike all grow accustomed to these practices. 


Lead image courtesy of