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PFT Planet poll: Lowering the helmet

earlcampbell Getty Images

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.

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73 Responses to “PFT Planet poll: Lowering the helmet”
  1. johnnyjagfan says: Mar 18, 2013 11:41 AM

    I don’t think its possible unless you’re in the open field, one on one, to play RB like this.

  2. pigskinrube says: Mar 18, 2013 11:43 AM

    I hope this is just a ploy to make people think they are “trying” to make the game safer to avoid a huge concussion settlement.

    If not, suddenly watching even some of the current greats will be less fun.

  3. tampajoey2 says: Mar 18, 2013 11:44 AM

    Looks like 9.13% of you need to go watch tennis.

  4. mikea311 says: Mar 18, 2013 11:45 AM

    so the 12% (at this time) who either say it should be banned or don’t know, can you go watch something else?

  5. grantgoodman93 says: Mar 18, 2013 11:47 AM

    Talk about making a player defenseless…

  6. jimmymcnultysbottleofjameson says: Mar 18, 2013 11:47 AM

    “That’s totally inappropriate. It’s lewd, vesivius, salacious, outrageous!”

  7. ravensfan8780 says: Mar 18, 2013 11:48 AM

    For the 71 people who voted yes, need to stop watching football and ruining the game I used to love

  8. pftwstbshmc says: Mar 18, 2013 11:48 AM

    Ever since they initiated the “helmet to helmet” rule I’ve been ticked off because it is only called against the defense even though the majority of the time it is the offensive player that lowers his head to make the contact happen.
    It’s about time and in my opinion well overdue that they are looking at it this way. If they are “serious about player safety” then they would have done this from the get go.

  9. davetexansfan says: Mar 18, 2013 11:49 AM

    Andddd this vote isn’t even close.

  10. canadianvikingfaniii says: Mar 18, 2013 11:50 AM

    If they vote yes on the ban, then it’s the death of football as we know it.

  11. petehemlock says: Mar 18, 2013 11:52 AM

    I vote Yes because of ‘in the open field’.

  12. cometkazie says: Mar 18, 2013 11:53 AM

    What did John Madden say about the play?

  13. joshdh2687 says: Mar 18, 2013 11:55 AM

    If this gets voted as a rule the NFL might as well change to the NFFL

    National Flag Football League

  14. trojan33sc says: Mar 18, 2013 11:56 AM

    As a former collegiate fullback with Earl Campbell being one of my all-time favorite runningbacks, i’m Appalled that yet another step is being proposed to remove the physical element from pro football ! People have a choice to play/watch the game and if they choose to play the sport then they know the risks involved. If you remove ALL of the physical contact from the sport then you might as well change the name of the sport to “ballet” for Gawd’s sake. As it stands you can’t even yell harsh language at a QB or touch a WR ! Look how passing statistics have escalated over the last few years with numerous QB’s throwing for over 4000 yards per season. Don’t kill the spirit of the game !!! Ridiculous !!

  15. mrcincinnati says: Mar 18, 2013 11:57 AM

    i understand the whole player safety thing, but eliminating kickoffs and asking running backs to keep there heads up is going a bit too far..if this passes there should be a boycott of NFL games..

  16. joshdh2687 says: Mar 18, 2013 11:57 AM

    Whats this league turning into? Pretty soon we will be giving participation trophies to every team no matter where they finish instead of handing out 1 Lombardi, just so other teams dont get their feelings hurt….

  17. boogerhut says: Mar 18, 2013 12:00 PM

    3.29% of the people polled don’t know what they want for breakfast.

  18. peopletrains says: Mar 18, 2013 12:02 PM

    I think this rule is 100 times worse than the helmet to helmet BS going on…

  19. peopletrains says: Mar 18, 2013 12:03 PM

    I seriously don’t know how a running back would run through the line… it would be awkward to do and awkward to watch… terrible.

  20. patriotinvasion says: Mar 18, 2013 12:05 PM

    Leave well enough alone! Football players assume the risk of head injuries just as police officers assume the risk of being shot and killed on the job. And football players get paid a heck of a lot more money to assume a less lethal risk. Just stop NFL before people stop watching.

  21. elwayfanj says: Mar 18, 2013 12:05 PM

    Heads up football is a million times safer, it’s common sense.

  22. rolloxd says: Mar 18, 2013 12:09 PM

    I will boycott the NFL and refuse to wear gear, visit NFL sites, or take place in anything related to the NFL. They are systematically ruining the NFL, and if that rule is passed, im done. I have loved the game of football since I was a toddler, religiously followed the game, and spent countless dollars on merchandise. I will no longer follow or support the NFL if this rule is passed.

    Football is an integral part of my life, and I will no longer stand for the systematic depletion of the game. Period. Firstly, they make hitting the QB impossible. Then, they ban helmet to helmet hits on a defensiveness Receivers. They are truly ruining the game.

    If you cannot handle the long term affects of the game, DONT PLAY. PERIOD. These are GROWN men playing a CHILDS game for millions of dollars. If you cant handle the repercussions of the game, dont play. Period.

    Drug addicts know that if they do drugs, they will eventually die. But still do the drugs because they love the rush and feeling it gives them. They understand the affects, and do it anyways. People need to realize that the NFL is a game and the game is going to be RUINED by Lawyers and People whom have NEVER PLAYED THE GAME.

    /rant

    sorry folks

  23. hollymeus says: Mar 18, 2013 12:10 PM

    make harder helmet

  24. Jay Olive says: Mar 18, 2013 12:10 PM

    “Hazardous to the health of the players…” Really? It’s football – every snap is hazardous to someone on the field.

  25. einstman says: Mar 18, 2013 12:13 PM

    This is almost guaranteed to result in broken necks for running backs

  26. pftwstbshmc says: Mar 18, 2013 12:14 PM

    If this rule doesn’t go in, then they have to retract the one they initiated a few years back.

    If you call it against the players on one side of the ball, you MUST call it on player for the other side of the ball as well.

  27. ajsjr40 says: Mar 18, 2013 12:15 PM

    The biggest problem is that a back can’t drop his shoulder without dropping his head. More knee injuries?

  28. wwarriorst4030 says: Mar 18, 2013 12:19 PM

    Seriously whats more dangerous protecting yourself effectively or allowing a free shot ti the chin from an nfl linebacker
    Just sayin

  29. pixelito says: Mar 18, 2013 12:19 PM

    You’re asking a bunch of blue-collar idiots whose idea of physical activity is buttering a bagel, how they think professional athletes should play the sport?

  30. canuck54143 says: Mar 18, 2013 12:21 PM

    If this happens watch how empty stadiums end up. pretty much the kiss of death for NFL..

  31. andyreidisthegoat says: Mar 18, 2013 12:30 PM

    Let’s just play 7 on 7. no line. no rushing. safe is one thing eliminating bulldozing runs is another. What exactly would be the call? I can see it now, Ed Hoculi with his biceps popping:

    “10 yard penalty on the offense he lowered his head and shoulder and hit the defender too hard. This negates the three yard run for a first down third and 12″

    This is what football is becoming. I don’t know if you can take all of the contact out of the game and still have it be the game we all love to watch.

  32. andyreidisthegoat says: Mar 18, 2013 12:31 PM

    leave it up smith. it’s saved i can do this all day

  33. S.Nevada says: Mar 18, 2013 12:35 PM

    Penalize the player, not the game.

    If players are being dangerous remove them from the game and take that weeks check. They’ll surely get the point and fix whatever it is they’re doing wrong. The NFLPA will agree, they’re not the sharpest bunch, as we’ve already witnessed.

  34. descendency says: Mar 18, 2013 12:36 PM

    I voted yes because I feel that there can be physical hits and safety by removing certain rules and adding better ones.

    The athletes are bigger, faster, and stronger than before so we shouldn’t use rules for players from 50 years ago.

    If a coach coached little kids to play the way NFL players do, youth football would have been shut down. Why? Because they are doing it wrong. Every coach coaches to “See what you are hitting.” If you put your head down, you can’t do that.

    The rules that allow a 15 yard penalty because someone grazes Tom Brady’s helmet (I see that a lot as a Patriots fan) are insane. Those are the kinds of rules that are sissying up the game.

    It should be a concern to everyone that rich, well taken care of men are dying 10 years earlier than the average man and over 20 years earlier than the ones in the same pay grade. They have a life expectancy of a soldier or a fire fighter. It’s just a game. It should be both exciting and reasonably safe. I expect to be down voted, but I just thought I’d share my reasoning.

  35. gochargersgo says: Mar 18, 2013 12:37 PM

    There will be a flag on every single play. The USPS will be busier than ever with all of the fines being mailed to players.

  36. whitecastleisafoodgroup says: Mar 18, 2013 12:39 PM

    The question and given answer for “no” doesn’t make sense:

    Should the NFL ban players lowering their helmets on tackles in the open field?

    Yes: Head-first collisions can cause serious injuries.
    No: Physical running and tackling is an integral part of football.
    Not sure.

    How about:

    No: Ball carriers need to be able to protect themselves as well as the football in the open field and goal line.

    This new rule is just placating the recent complaints by defensive players with only defending offensive players. Yes, protection from getting your knees chopped needs to be addressed but the NFL needs to stop knee-jerk reactions.

  37. superfuzz1000 says: Mar 18, 2013 12:41 PM

    If this rule is instituted, it’s going to be interesting to see how many whiplash and broken jaw injuries result…

  38. buddysguys says: Mar 18, 2013 12:43 PM

    soon it will be illegal to jump over a guy, or use a stiff arm.

    people who voted no are probably the same people that get a upset tummy when they watch MMA.

    if you don’t like the violence in sports go shopping dork.

  39. justintuckrule says: Mar 18, 2013 12:44 PM

    Vote in polls all you want, the NFL don’t care. The only vote that will get their attention is the one WE can make with our wallets!

  40. kingpel says: Mar 18, 2013 12:46 PM

    Wouldnt this render the big running back useless? I know the NFL likes big plays and scoring. Maybe they want scatbacks to become the norm in the backfield?

    I have a safety idea. Start testing for HGH and get these human beings back to normal sizes and speeds. How about that?

    Too big, too fast is the problem here.

  41. redwinglion says: Mar 18, 2013 12:49 PM

    “When both players are clearly outside the tackle box.”

    But, hey–let’s keep pretending it will affect all plays and keep being Chicken Littles, saying the league will collapse.

    This isn’t as big a deal as people think, even aside from the fact that it has zero chance of passing.

  42. mputelli55 says: Mar 18, 2013 12:52 PM

    NFFL National Flag Football League! Is this what you want?? Because idiotic rules like this are leading to it…

  43. boogerhut says: Mar 18, 2013 12:58 PM

    descendency says: Mar 18, 2013 12:36 PM

    If they coached that in peewee it wouldn’t work because they are undeveloped CHILDREN. If we had 10 yr olds dead lifting 1.5 times their body weight it would be wrong because they’re undeveloped CHILDREN. There is absolutely zero comparison on any subject between the NFL played by men and peewee football played by CHILDREN. Now run along and share your reasoning (feelings) with your favorite hugging tree and get off you husbands PFT account.

  44. blacknole08 says: Mar 18, 2013 1:02 PM

    No. How else will runners finish runs? What about goal-line situations? And this isn’t just limited to RBs either.

    WRs and even QBs sometimes try to lay the boom on people to gain a few extra yards.

  45. autumnritual says: Mar 18, 2013 1:13 PM

    There have been several tasteless rules changes/implementations over the years, but I’m still aboard. If this one passes, it would put an end to my rabid interest in the NFL. It’s too aggravating to comprehend!

  46. gmfw7 says: Mar 18, 2013 1:13 PM

    I’m sorry, but those of you voting yes don’t deserve to watch this great sport and shouldn’t refer to yourselves as football fans. And using the “it will protect players” argument is a joke. Watch any running back take a hit from a linebacker or hard hitting safety while standing straight up and then try to tell me with a straight face that the runner is more protected by not lowering his shoulder pads, and thus, his helmet. this proposed rule is a disgrace to football and if passed, has the potential to RUIN the game and make physical running backs obsilete. I don’t want athletes to get hurt or have tough lives in retirement from injuries sustained during their playing days, but if you think this is good for football then you should probably be watching a different sport.

  47. killitandeatit says: Mar 18, 2013 1:15 PM

    We have all seen the play when the runner is trying to “punish” the tackler. This should be flagged and it is a judgment call. I have no problem when it is an obvious spear by the ball carrier. In addition,as the rules get more complex the NFL need full time officials. At least a couple of “pros” on every squad and maybe an official just dedicated to player safety.

  48. malab377 says: Mar 18, 2013 1:20 PM

    I think the refs already have enough problems interpreting the Tuck Rule. Don’t give ‘em the chance to interprete a run or a tackle, please! We will see flags on 2/3 of the runs!

  49. albertmn says: Mar 18, 2013 1:38 PM

    Every time the NFL discusses any rule change, 90% of the people on these boards start crying and whining about how it will ruin the game and they are going to boycott and never watch the NFL again nor buy any tickets or merchandise. Yet, 99.9% of those whining are just bluster and will come back and watch the NFL and buy their stuff.

    Most players in general are blinded by the money and too dumb to take measures to protect themselves unless they are legislated and come with penalties. As much as people complain about these being “grown men playing a kid’s game”, too many of them are only grown physically and don’t have the brains to protect themselves (or their money, but that’s a different issue).

    The NFL makes a lot of money. Whether you believe it or not, the NFL does NOT want to see any of that money go away. If they truly feel a change would ruin football, they won’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

  50. wnstonchill says: Mar 18, 2013 1:42 PM

    This is what happens when you have a bunch of bureaucrats trying to run a league. It’s much like our gov’t. A massive group of ill-educated, non-experienced, fools, who have no clue what they’re even talking about and no idea of the consequences of their actions. You want to find the right answer to this poll question, just poll ALL of the current RB’s in the NFL and ask them! They’re the one’s putting their heads and necks on the line here! Get a clue!

  51. spfripp says: Mar 18, 2013 1:47 PM

    If you look at sports such as boxing, MMA or even WWE. They are all prone to concussions. It is an assumed risk. What the NFL should do is have players sign waivers. If a player is not willing to take that risk than he should not be playing.

  52. jazz11001 says: Mar 18, 2013 2:11 PM

    They just want the league to be a passing league. Prima Donna WR’s who they pretend to fine ..blah blah blah….This should be called the “how the hell do we stop Adrian Peterson rule”…

  53. jazz11001 says: Mar 18, 2013 2:14 PM

    If they honestly believe in Safety then lets work on the equipment yo… everybody is tearing up a knee and nobody wears any type of protective pad there anymore. Make them look like the robots on Fox’s pregame show!

  54. christophershearin says: Mar 18, 2013 2:32 PM

    If they are serious about player safety take the helmets away from the players, or give them leather helmets. The fact of the matter is, players are unconcerned about using the helmet as a weapon on the field, once they realize they have permenant brain injuries from doing so, is when they decide to sue. If you take the helmets away, players will naturally be more cautious in using their heads as a weapon. Thus eliminating the problem……….. It will never happen though……………

  55. anicra says: Mar 18, 2013 2:40 PM

    rolloxd says:…….”NFL is a game and the game is going to be RUINED by Lawyers and People whom have NEVER PLAYED THE GAME.”
    All you need to know.
    Simply
    Risk vs Reward.

    What worries me the voters that voted yes …have they ever ran the ball threw the line at a serious level. Cannot imagine not being able to lower your head.

  56. catfanatic1979v1 says: Mar 18, 2013 2:46 PM

    All these rules changes and no one is talking about safer helmets……..

  57. poprox13 says: Mar 18, 2013 2:46 PM

    NFFL…

    National Flag Football League

  58. pleazenufalready says: Mar 18, 2013 2:55 PM

    Oh Great! One more rule for the refs to botch up from week to week. How many times have we seen them screw up the “tuck” rule? How many times did they make bogus calls on “hitting a defenseless receiver”? This new one could top them all. How is a RB supposed to drop and drive his shoulder without dropping his head? …and is the penalty going to be from the line of scrimmage or from the spot of the foul (as it doesn’t seem fair to impose a 10 or 15-yd penalty from the line of scrimmage, if the penalty occurs after a great 50-yd run)?

  59. kingjamsi says: Mar 18, 2013 3:16 PM

    Here is another example of people being blinded by the popular terminology used to describe something, rather than understanding what it actually is. The penalty does not punish “lowering the helmet,” which would be absurd. In the same way, defenders are not currently flagged (most of the time) when they drop their shoulders, and thus their head, to tackle. What the penalty is for, is to ban the use of the helmet as a weapon by a ball-carrier. Players on either side of the ball wear a helmet for protection. It is extremely hard and capable of delivering a lot of blunt force. In a violent game, who wouldn’t be tempted to use that. The idea that players ought to tackle and break tackles by way of their speed, strength, agility and intelligence, rather using a high-tech polycarbonate alloy battering ram seems to be common sense… If properly written and enforced it would be the type of thing that only would have been called 10-20 times all of last season.

    Looking at it from this perspective, I see the intent of this rule, but I couldn’t support it because I don’t see anyway to enforce it with consistency.

    That said, I think the vehement detractors are getting a bit bent out of shape here… read the actual text..

  60. joeyashwi says: Mar 18, 2013 3:32 PM

    The league won’t be happy until scores are 70-63 and there are only nine men on defense. I realize that my comment has nothing to do with this idiotic possible rule change but that’s the way I see it. There is no common sense in calling penalties as it is. A defender grazes a helmet or face mask and gets flagged? A receiver lowers his head and gets hit on the helmet and it’s a defensive penalty? This league is being catered to fantasy stats and soccer moms. My wife hates that the game is being softened as I’m sure most fans, men and women, are. There is a reason it became the greatest game in this nation so stop trying to ruin it!!!

  61. ocean10 says: Mar 18, 2013 3:56 PM

    “so the 12% (at this time) who either say it should be banned or don’t know, can you go watch something else?”

    No, I like the sport. I just want to see the safer version of it.

  62. ocean10 says: Mar 18, 2013 3:58 PM

    Leading with the video and the ‘beautiful run’ really setup the kind of responses the poll would produce…

  63. mogogo1 says: Mar 18, 2013 4:06 PM

    If this is adopted, the next move will inevitably be banning the 3-point stance since it’s impossible not to bump helmets along the line, particularly on running plays. (Depending on how they worded this rule, that might even be covered by this.)

    Goodell is so scared of lawsuits, he absolutely doesn’t see the end result of these rules. This is no different than their desire to eliminate kickoffs. Kickoffs would be gone for no more than a couple weeks before a punt returner got blown up or somebody got hurt on a big block and they’d then start talking about eliminating punts.

  64. jsesquire says: Mar 18, 2013 4:16 PM

    Player safety is great. Eliminating shots to the head, neck, knees, etc of DEFENSELESS players is super important. Good job on that NFL.

    This is pure ridiculousness. Nobody trying to tackle a RB is defenseless. They are intelligent, athletic guys taking calculated risks.

    Everyone on here ranting about how football is so important and this rule change is going to ruin their lives… Grow up and get a life. It’s a game.

  65. ocean10 says: Mar 18, 2013 4:17 PM

    “Goodell is so scared of lawsuits, he absolutely doesn’t see the end result of these rules.”

    It takes 24 votes to implement.

  66. thetooloftools says: Mar 18, 2013 4:25 PM

    You forgot to mention Mr. Campbell is now nearly an invalid and can hardly walk according to SI.

  67. flik44 says: Mar 18, 2013 4:56 PM

    Not sure where Goodell got the idea that the fans have this huge interest in player safety. Especially these commercials where they talk about how much money they are pouring into R&D to improve things. Let them play football.

    Cut down ticket prices a little. Make that $8 beer $5. Let me cheer my safety that knocks the crap out of the receiver for trying to catch the ball in a dangerous spot. That’s what we’re interested in.

  68. hillzmickelzon says: Mar 18, 2013 4:57 PM

    This rule would kill football.. How do running backs get that tough first down on 3rd and 1? Are the supposed to slide like basball? Or maybe turn there back to the defender and try and back in? This rule will ruin football I’m actually scared they may destroy the game forever.

  69. brownbuddha says: Mar 18, 2013 5:05 PM

    This rule would result is a lot of open field tackles resulting in a lot of broken wrists, elbows, collarbones and a lot of shoulder damage. Players will run upright and tacklers will lead with shoulders. If you want to turn football into rugby, just do it. Take off all of the helmets and pads. The protection won’t be needed because collision will be less violent becuase players will fear hurting themselves as well as their opponents. And then the public will watch about as much as we watch the national flag football championships.

  70. macbull says: Mar 18, 2013 5:47 PM

    Ever play football?

    Ever run with the football?

    RBs must be able to protect themselves as they run or they will be on the IR rather than the in the starting lineup next week.

    If a RBs lower their shoulders to protect themselves at the moment the defensive man is about to deliver a hit, the head is going to go lower too…the head will follow the shoulders…it’s just the way “humans” are made !

    Anyone asking RBs to stay upright and take the hit, more than likely have never played the game or run with a football during a game…it is a very unreasonable request from those who have little or no knowledge of the game of football.

    If the NFL wants to protect the players, FIX THE HELMETS by adding a padded layer to the outside of the rock hard plastic shell.

    Helmets with a padded layer added to the outside of NFL player’s helmets HAS BEEN TRIED, dating back to the 1980s…AND IT WORKED !!!

    Yet Roger Goodell and the NFL continues to ignore the ProCap device, which was “successfully used” by several NFL players, in the past.

    Some in the media need to show some guts and question Goodell and the NFL on the use of the ProCap…asking why they refuse to even try the ProCap device?… which fits over the existing helmets, without any major modifications.

    The ProCap is a cheap, easy fix that has been used by NFL players and it worked, protecting those players who wore it from suffering further concussions….yet Roger Goodell and the NFL refuse “to even test” the ProCap against the competition’s helmets.

    The Sports media needs to ask Roger Goodell why the NFL won’t even test the ProCap?

  71. RedRuffensor says: Mar 18, 2013 6:45 PM

    If the deliberate helmet-hits cause brain trauma and damage, then they must be outlawed. Football is a sport, not some activity where we should take pleasure in the crippling of the participants. For anyone who says “no”, how are you any different than a spectator in the Roman Colosseum 2,000 years ago whooping it up and ooo-ing and aww-ing when one gladiator brutally wounded or killed another, or a lion mauled a Christian? Try to remember players like Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, Mike Webster, etc., etc., who suffered brain trauma and ended-up either severely mentally and/or emotionally damaged or committed suicide as the result.

  72. fearthehoody says: Mar 18, 2013 7:13 PM

    Yeah do this rule so I can watch twice as much NCAA Football and MLB

  73. themackstrong says: Mar 19, 2013 3:24 AM

    Honestly this competition committee has slowly been ruining this game yet Goddell looks at the end numbers and see’s nothing wrong because there is growth. Flag football will be the end of NFL football and viewers will find something else. This is a collision game- the skill and impact make it entertaining. If any of you ever carried a football you would know you have to protect yourself you are not defenseless and neither is the defender. Jeff Fisher didn’t sell me anything today but expect to see judgement calls and more penalties for hitting too hard.

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