Under Roger Goodell, the NFL has made a number of rule changes in the name of player safety. Many of these changes have been unpopular with fans, but the owners love them. These changes protect owners from lawsuits, but they also change the way the game is played. While owners are aware that fans don't like some of the rules, the simple fact is that the owners will continue to change the game in the name of safety until it starts hurting the bottom line, something we haven't seen a bit of yet.
This year's round of proposed rule changes includes one that would make it illegal for any ball carrier to initiate contact with the crown of his helmet outside of the tackle box. It sounds like a logical rule to implement until you consider it carefully. Matt Forte, the Bears' starting running back, provides a position for opposing the rule.
In order to lower ur shoulder u obviously have to lower ur head. It's a way of protecting ur self from a tackler and a way to break tackles
— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) March 17, 2013
This is a case where the player is right, and the NFL is wrong. By outlawing the simple protective move of lowering a shoulder, the ball carrier is opened up to a huge list of injuries. To top it off, ball carriers would have a hard time falling forward if they're not allowed to gain leverage over a defender. In essence, the rule hurts the running game more simply because running plays almost always end with the ball carrier lowering his shoulder, and by extension his head.
It's important to remember that the rule only applies outside the tackle box, but the rule changes the nature of the game far too much for my liking. The NFL is already a passing league, and this will just add to that trend. Protecting players is one thing, and it's a mission that Roger Goodell is intent on seeing through, but there's a point where it becomes absurd to make a change. Football is a violent sport, and it will always involve injuries, and yes, concussions.
With rules becoming more and more complicated, it seems more logical for the NFL to invest heavily into better safety equipment that lowers the risk of injury. You can only outlaw so many parts of the game before it ceases to be football, and while that point is still far away, this proposed rule would be just another step in that direction.