NFL says Jamaal Charles did not break crown of helmet rule

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Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles lowered the top of his helmet into Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks on Thursday night, but he didn’t draw a penalty. And the NFL says the officials got that call right.

According to Dean Blandino, the NFL’s head of officiating, Charles did not break the new “crown of the helmet rule” because the hit was inside the tackle box. Blandino said in a video distributed to the media that Charles initiated his contact three yards beyond the line of scrimmage, which makes the hit legal — but it would have been illegal if he had been any further downfield.

“It was not outside the tackle box. The tackle box is tackle to tackle and [up to] three yards beyond the line of scrimmage,” Blandino said. “The ball was snapped at the 28-yard line and this contact is going to occur right at three yards. It’s right at the 31. It’s just at the outside edge of the tackle box, and so this contact inside the tackle box is legal.”

So why is a hit with the crown of the helmet legal inside the tackle box when it would be illegal outside the tackle box? Blandino said running backs need to be able to lower their heads as they run into the middle of the line.

“In the tackle box you’ve got a lot of bodies,” Blandino said. “The back doesn’t know where the hits are coming from. He’s got to be able to try to get small, absorb those blows, and we didn’t want to prohibit the back from lowering his head to try to protect himself and absorb some of these blows.”

So even though Charles initiated contact with the crown of his helmet, he did so where that’s legal: Inside the tackle box.