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Ball carriers subject to a foul if they use helmet as a battering ram



2013 rule changes

In what will be the most scrutinized rule change this season, the NFL has modified the rules that will restrict ball carriers from using their helmets to inflict punishment on would-be tacklers.  

Starting this year, ball carriers are not allowed to lower their heads and initiate contact with a defender with the top (crown) of the helmet.  If he does, the officials will call a personal foul on the ball carrier.  Vice president for officiating Dean Blandino says this new rule will not be any more difficult to officiate than any other player safety foul (video).  “The way we’re going to teach it is that we are looking for the player that squares up the opponent, lowers the head, and delivers a blow with the very top crown of the helmet,” Blandino says.

Alberto Riveron is the senior director of officiating and Blandino’s right-hand man.  He says three officials will get a good look at a potential foul on the ball carrier — from the front, back and side.  He says the officials will huddle and make sure that the foul is there, before going with the call and reporting it to the referee.  “We are going to encourage our officials to slow down when they have this kind of play and…make sure they have to components of the foul:  squaring up, head down, and contact with the top of the helmet,” Riveron adds.

All three of those elements must be present, or else there is no foul.

It will be interesting to see the how many times officials call this foul in the opening weeks of the season.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"