The Spectacle Blog

The Riggins Rule

By on 3.15.13 | 4:48PM

The NFL is considering rules changes that would make it a personal foul for running backs to lower their heads and plow into tacklers. None of your John Riggins or Jim Brown nonsense in the kinder, gentler NFL.

Rich McKay, chairman (is the NFL insisting on chairperson yet?) of the NFL Competition Committee, calls the proposed change in the game a “pure and simple player safety rule.” He added that the NFL believes it is time “to address the situation in space where a runner or a tackler has a choice of how to approach his opponent.”

Huh? I’m sure this last statement is a real head-scratcher to every running back and tackler in the NFL. But not to worry, the NFL running back would not be completely neutered under the proposed rule. The ball carrier would still be allowed the lower his shoulder and to drop his head to protect the ball. And he would not be required to say, "Mother, may I?” before running past a tackler, nor would he be required, as premature and erroneous reports have it, to wear a dress on the field.

OK, this stuff is easy to ridicule. I know we’re trying to make a fundamentally unsafe game, safe. But as some point these well-intentioned efforts take on the flakey aspect of Billy Bob’s surgeon general, Joycelyn Elders, who demanded safer bullets.

Bullets aren’t safe, or at least if made safe wouldn’t be bullets. The same can be said of football. We’re only now beginning to understand the price athletes pay for playing this gladiator sport. New rules could probably lower that price a bit. But at some point, football would cease to be football. And fans would cease to care about it.

If this new rule is adopted, does this mean we have to kick Riggins and Brown out of the Football Hall of Fame? Or at least put them in the time-out room for a quarter or two?

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