Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown says running backs don't need to lead with their heads to punish opponents. (Getty Images)
Phoenix — Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown doesn't see what all the fuss is about. He never needed to use his head to punish defenders when he was carrying the football.
"I didn't use my head," Brown, now 77, said Monday. "I used my forearm, the palm of my hand and my shoulder — and my shoulder pads. I wasn't putting my head into too much of anything. I don't think that's a good idea."
The NFL is expected to pass a proposed rule change that will penalize ball carriers and tacklers from initiating contact with the crown of their helmet outside the tackle box and more than 3 yards downfield.
"We want to make a serious attempt to get the shoulder back into the game," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "We think that is very important as a league. We are not saying the ball carrier cannot get small. We are not saying the ball carrier cannot protect the football, because if he is going to go down to cover the football, if the shoulder goes down, we know the head goes down, we understand that.
"Protecting the football is OK, providing you do not strike with the crown of your helmet and that is what we are trying to differentiate."
The penalty for this infraction will be 15 yards.
"I'm always in favor of the player safety things," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. "I'm on the GM advisory committee and we talked about it — I think it's going to be officiated to get rid of the egregious examples of guys using their head as a battering ram and attacking defenders with their head.
"They want to get rid of the egregious cases of when a runner sees a defender and then directs his helmet directly at the defender and attacks him with his helmet. That's what the intent of the rule is."
Some feel this rule will take away a runner's ability to protect himself. Fisher emphasized the rule is enforced outside the tackle box and 3 yards down field, not when a runner is trying to bust through the line of scrimmage
"Nobody I ever broke bread with, and I see players all the time, talked about using their head running the football," Brown said. "I've seen Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson and Marcus Allen and Franco Harris and we've all been together and no one talked about using their head."
The bulk of the final decisions on the proposed rules changes will come Wednesday, but two were approved on Tuesday.
Next season, pending approval from the league's board of governors, offensive players will not be allowed to block low when going toward their own end in the tackle box. Players can no longer block low when peeling back anywhere on the field.
Also, on field goals and extra points, rushing teams can have no more than six players aligned on either side of the snapper.
Expected to be passed Wednesday:
*The Jim Schwartz rule, which states any play that would have been automatically reviewed will still be reviewed even if a coach throws his challenge flag. Any coach who challenges a play he's not permitted to challenge will be charged a timeout, and won't get his timeout back even if he wins the challenge — or lose 15 yards if his team is out of timeouts. But the play itself will still be reviewed.
*The tuck rule is expected to be eliminated.
*Tight ends are expected to be allowed to wear jersey numbers from 40-49.
*Players will no longer be able to initiate contact with the crown of the helmet outside the tackle box and more than 3 yards down field.