As we get ready for the start of the 2012 regular season, a rule that has been on the books for several years will be getting increased attention.
One of the specific points of emphasis for the coming season will be the horse-collar rule, which prohibits tacklers from grabbing inside the jersey and/or shoulder pads of a ball carrier.
The problem is that, despite a clear rule against the tactic, the league saw an increase in horse-collar tackles last year. The rule hasn’t changed; the league instead wants players and officials to be aware that the NFL will be emphasizing this important safety rule.
Keep in mind that the rule does not apply to ball carriers who are in the tackle box. It also doesn’t apply to a quarterback in the pocket. During the offseason, the NFL consider the possibility of expanding the protection to quarterbacks in the pocket at the suggestion of the Steelers, but the Competition Committee decided against it.
Tackling a ball carrier by the hair continues to be fair game. Even though the safety concerns are similar, players who choose to grow their hair long — and to allow it to flow from the helmet — assume the risk that they’ll be yanked to the ground that way.