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Wednesday, March 20, 2013
AFC North reaction to new rule changes

By Jamison Hensley


Two rule changes were approved at the NFL owners meeting Wednesday and there's a couple of teams in the AFC North who aren't happy about it.

Owners voted 31-1 to approve the rule that penalizes players, namely running backs, who forcibly initiate contact with the crown of the helmet anywhere outside the tackle box. The only team to vote against it was the Cincinnati Bengals.

Bengals running backs coach Hue Jackson told the team's website before the vote that BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the type of power back who is going to be impacted heavily by the rule change.

"It’s going to be a hard rule to coach," Jackson said. "It's how these guys have run since Pop Warner. Using their head and shoulders is all they know. Especially on the goal line and short yardage."

It will now be a 15-yard penalty if a player who is more than 3 yards downfield or outside of the tackle box delivers a blow with the crown of his helmet. If both the offensive and defensive player lowers his head and uses the crown of the helmet to make contact, each will be penalized.

"It makes it very difficult to protect themselves," Jackson said, "and there'll be more fumbles."

Browns cornerback Joe Haden surprisingly sided with the running backs on this issue, posting on Twitter:

Running backs just got the short end of the stick!! I feel bad 4 them and I play D!

— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) March 20, 2013

The other change is the abolishment of the tuck rule by a 29-1 vote. It's understandable that the Patriots (who benefited from the rule in a 2002 playoff game against the Raiders) and Redskins (whose general manager Bruce Allen was the Raiders' GM at the time) abstained.

But it was curious to see the Steelers were the only team to vote against getting rid of the tuck rule.

"We didn't think it was necessary to make that change," Steelers president Art Rooney said. "We were happy with the way it's been called."

The only other news was the tabling of a proposal on whether to open the regular season as early as Wednesday. The Super Bowl champion Ravens have a scheduling conflict on Thursday, Sept. 5, with the Orioles, who share downtown sports complex downtown, and Major League Baseball appears unwilling to move the time of the night game.