Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 4/1/13
Every off season, the NFL's competition committee meets to oversee competition and make rule changes.  A lot of these changes can affect the game severely. The new rules they passed thisoff season are no different.The one that stands out the most this year has to be the new "crown rule".  This rule states that "a runner will be flagged for a 15-yard penalty if he initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top/crown of helmet against an opponent when both players clearly are outside the tackle box".Any incidental contact won't be flagged.Many running backs including the likes of Matt Forte and Fred Jackson have spoken out against the rule. Ex-players such as Marshall Faulk and Emmitt Smith have blasted the change too.Add Ravens back and Super Bowl champion Ray Rice to the list.  According to a report on NFL.com, Rice told the Ravens' official website, "I don't like it. I'm just telling you right now, there's not going to be a guy that's going to be able to get a free lick on me and think it's all right. I will defend my case, and I will defend myself as a runner."Players should note that league does not bend nor break in this scenario. Just look at James Harrison, someone who continues to defy the helmet-to-helmet rule and continues to get fined for it. Forte even joked that he has a separate bank account set up strictly for fines.I understand that this is a big deal - running backs have done this since the beginning of football. Stay low and get behind your pads are the first things you are taught at the position. It is going to be tough for the more physical runners to change the style that they have always had.In a realistic view though, this rule is completely fair. Defenders have had to cope with not leading with their helmets for years and now it is time for the offense to play catch up. Now I don't know how much success the rule will have, but it is the right thing to do.In a day where ex-players are suing the NFL for "not protecting them properly" in the past, the NFL has to do the responsible thing - which is to protect the players at all costs. But what is the actual cost?I understand where Rice and the others are coming from, but when you start to cost your team games because you don't follow the rules - you will eventually follow the rules.It levels the playing field but also raises many questions. Does this mean that running backs will continue to be used less and less in game plans? Is the NFL trying to be too safe to better their good?The question that raises my brow would have to be the latter. The NFL is on record saying they want to expand their income from around $10 billion per year to $25 million per year by 2027, via ESPN.com. So it's obvious - they want to make more money.How do you go about doing so? You have more games, which gives you more chances to sell tickets, merchandise, beer, etc.How do you have more games? By extending the season. Now, a lot of the arguments against extending the season were based on the fact that it would increase injury risk.So how do you decrease injury risk? By making the game safer. No more helmet-to-helmet hits on both sides is a very good start. It seems as if the NFL is taking a lot of the more dangerous elements out of the game in order to benefit their own kind.Maybe so, maybe not. The point is that players are going to have to get used to seeing these types of changes as the league moves to a safer, lesser-risk type status. Will it make the game less exciting?  I hope not, but only time will tell.
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