PHOENIX — If it was good enough for football’s greatest running back, NFL owners figure, it should work in the 21st century.
Team owners passed a player safety rule Wednesday barring ball carriers from using the crown of their helmets to make forcible contact with a defender in the open field. Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney put the change succinctly.
“Jim Brown never lowered his head,” he said with a smile. “It can be done.”
And according to the rules, it must be done beginning this season.
The second significant player safety rule passed this week to help protect defensive players came with much debate. Several coaches and team executives expressed concern about officiating the new rule, but commissioner Roger Goodell championed it and it passed 31-1. Cincinnati voted no.
On Tuesday, the league took the peel-back block out of the game.
The changes were the latest involving safety, and head injuries in particular, with the issue receiving heightened attention amid hundreds of lawsuits filed by former players claiming that the NFL did not do enough to prevent concussions in years past.
The tuck rule, one of the most criticized in pro football, was eliminated. Now, if a quarterback loses control of the ball before he has fully protected it after opting not to throw, it is a fumble.
The Steelers were the only team to vote against getting rid of the tuck rule. New England and Washington abstained.
Peel-back blocks had been legal inside the tackle box, but now players can’t turn back toward their goal line and block an opponent low from behind anywhere on the field.
Video review will be allowed when a coach challenges a play that he is not allowed to. But the coach will be penalized or lose a timeout, depending on when he threw the challenge flag.
Goodell announced that the Pro Bowl will be held in Honolulu on Jan. 26, the Sunday before the Super Bowl.
He added that the system for choosing the players won’t change, but some consideration has been given to having team captains select their rosters, rather than an AFC vs. NFC format.
The Rooney Rule that requires every team to interview at least one minority candidate when there is a coaching or general manager opening was discussed at length.
Goodell said he would like to see more flexibility when teams ask to interview candidates whose clubs still are playing.
Bears part ways with Urlacher
The Chicago Bears are parting ways with veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher after 13 years. General manager Phil Emery said that the team couldn’t agree on a contract with Urlacher, for years the heart and face of the franchise. He is a free agent after being slowed by a knee problem and then missing the final four games of the season with a hamstring injury.
Urlacher, 34, is an eight-time Pro Bowler.
Reports: Reed set to join Texans
Free-agent safety Ed Reed is on the verge of becoming a Houston Texan, according to multiple reports. CBSSports.com reported that a deal was in place, and the NFL Network quoted Reed as saying he was headed to Houston “unless something changes.”