The new rule against lowering the helmet and initiating contact with an opponent applies anywhere and everywhere on the football field. With one important exception.
Quarterbacks who drop their helmets and ram forward on a sneak play will not be subject to punishment.
NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron explained during a Friday visit to #PFTPM that the Competition Committee decided that, in such situations, the quarterback is bracing for impact from the moment he starts to move forward. That may or may not mesh with the plain language of the rule, given that quarterbacks who deliberately plunge forward, with their heads lowered, may indeed initiate contact with an opponent.
Regardless, the decision has been made that the rule won’t apply to quarterbacks executing a sneak, based on the notion that they are always protecting/bracing when trying to “sneak” the ball forward, into an (ideally) empty “A” gap. Keep that in mind as the games that count approach.