It didn’t appear on last week’s (supposedly) comprehensive list of proposed rule changes. By Tuesday afternoon, however, it passed with a vote of 32-0: “Lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet is a foul.”
The rule came from Proposal No. 11 of the Competition Committee, which had made only 10 proposals in advance of the annual meetings.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the process began in Indianapolis, during the Scouting Combine. Last week, discussions continued among the members of the Competition Committee, with Saints coach Sean Payton (a first-year member of the committee) being very supportive of the rule.
As of Sunday, presentations began to be made to coaches and General Managers. Discussion occurred during Tuesday’s meetings, with the vote and announcement delayed to the afternoon due to efforts to firm up the language of the rule.
As of the morning session, however, support for the rule change already was universal among the owners and coaches. Which confirms just how seriously the league is now taking the effort to get the head out of the game whenever and wherever possible.
The fact that the potential change wasn’t known until the change was made invites speculation that the league wanted to make its decision without input from fans, media, and/or hot-take artists who potentially would try to shout down a revision to the rules that will further change, in a subtle but very real way, the manner in which the game is played and, more importantly, how the game looks.
While the goal surely will be to persuade lower levels of the sport to follow suit, the move represents another tangible difference to the game that, if/when enough total differences emerge, could set the stage for an alternative professional league in which all players know the risks, embrace the hazards, and play the game the way it used to be played.