The NFL is currently asking fans to vote online for the greatest play in NFL history, and one of the plays that’s up for consideration is Earl Campbell’s famous jersey-ripping run against the Rams.
The NFL’s Competition Committee is currently asking owners to vote for a rules change that would make runs like Campbell’s illegal.
At this week’s league meeting, the owners will vote on a proposal from the Competition Committee that would add the following language to the league’s official rulebook: “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.”
Initiating forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top of the helmet is exactly what Campbell did to Rams linebacker Isiah Robertson on that famous play in 1978. Robertson was a great player in his own right, a six-time Pro Bowler who was usually the one delivering the punishment, not taking it. But Campbell was one of the most physical runners in the history of the game, and he was celebrated for the way he ran over Robertson. Watch the video of the original TV broadcast of that game, and you hear the announcers screaming, “He knocked Robertson on his back! Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful running!”
But that was 35 years ago, and the sport is changing. What was once considered beautiful running is now considered a hazard to the health of the players, and the owners may decide this week to make runs like Campbell’s a thing of the past. We’re asking PFT Planet to weigh in by taking our poll and leaving your thoughts on the new rule proposal in the comments.