March 20, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher (right) makes a gesture representing the crown of the helmet during a press conference at the annual NFL meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Brown casts lone vote against the helmet rule

The vote was 31-1 today, with the Cleveland Browns’ owner Mike Brown casting the nay vote on the running back helmet rule approved by owners today at the league meetings.

His courage should be noted and is duly done so here. It wasn’t a courageous decision by Brown, in my humble opinion, but a vote that just seemed right. The Packers President Mark Murphy was one of 31 who voted for the rule which will be initiated starting next season.

With so many former and current players and coaches expressing their displeasure and confusion on just how the rule will be enforced, it was Brown who said it best after the vote:

“It’s a very controversial change,” Brown was quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I view it as difficult if not impossible play to call. We had a lot of this with the secondary plays last year. I didn’t think those calls were always right. These plays happen in a flash. They’re just a reaction to people: Did he hit him with his shoulder pad? Did he hit him with his helmet? Was it intended? That’s difficult to sort out. I’m not confident we should add another discretionary call. We’re asking an awful lot of our referees to make those kind of calls.”

A detailed view of a San Francisco 49ers helmet with a safety warning for head injuries is seen during an NFL health and safety press conference at the Ernest Morial Convention center. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Because the rule states that it will be a judgment call by referees, it won’t be reviewable. We suggest that games may be won and lost through this rule and it’s not going to be popular. St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, who was instrumental in getting the rule passed, said the ball carriers will be permitted to protect themselves, by dropping their pads and dipping their helmets. A foul arises only if the top of the helmet is used to ram the opponent.

So the league gets rid of one bad rule, the tuck rule, and exchanges it with this helmet rule. Whether it’s considered a bad rule or an important one for the safety of players is yet to be determined over the course of time.

But Brown is right – it’s going to be very difficult to enforce and will place the officials in a very tough spot. Which direction do the officials go? Will they let it go unless it’s clearly egregious, or do they go the other way and call it too much?

The league hopes officials use good judgment and call it only when it’s obvious. That’s the tough part.

It will certainly be an interesting and much-talked about change in the game.

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