jkitsune wrote:Not necessarily, if a greater need outweighs the need to minimize erroneous penalties. The particular contact prohibited in this rule is particularly dangerous and potentially catastrophic, and is a good way to become quadriplegic. If you don't buy the safety angle, then think in terms of money : failing to ban it leaves the nfl open to lawsuits on the subject when someone gets hurt.
I know the physics of what happens when you take a hard enough blow straight down from the crown of your head, but I would argue that this rule actually has a detrimental effect on player safety. How many football players have been paralyzed due to hitting someone with the crown of his helmet? I can think of three: Dennis Byrd in 1992, Curtis Williams in 2000, and Eric LeGrand in 2010. (Mike Utley broke his neck in 1991 but that was due to an awkward fall after a missed block, not hitting someone with the crown of his helmet.) I don't minimize or make light of those incidents, but that is three cases in years, decades worth of seasons, games and hits.
On the other hand, this rule negatively impacts player safety in regards to the lower body. First, if backs are focusing on keeping their heads up, they are going to run higher as a result. That leaves their lower bodies more vulnerable. Since defenders are going to try to go low on ball carriers for reasons of leverage, if the ball carrier is running higher that means defenders are going to have a clear shot at their legs. Knee injuries are already frighteningly common and if running backs can't go low to protect themselves, we're going to see more knee injuries as a result. (And I know that Jeff Fisher and others came out and said that backs would be able to go low to protect themselves without a penalty, but it's going to get called.)
Dennis Byrd's example as mentioned above is illustrative because he did not intend to lead with the crown of his helmet on the play when he was paralyzed. In his autobiography, he says that he held his head up until the last second, but when he saw teammate Scott Mersereau coming at him he instinctively ducked. Even if backs focus on keeping their heads up, there are situations when they will duck their heads because of pure instinct. So there is no way this rule change will eliminate hits with the crown of the helmet.
This is a rule that looks good on paper but is going to prove to be very bad in real life. It's not going to keep players from leading with the crown of their helmets and it's going to lead to an increase in knee and other lower body injuries.