Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Updated: March 27, 6:03 PM ET
Owners to consider length of hair flowing from helmets
By John Clayton
The Kansas City Chiefs aren't calling for NFL players' scalps, but they want to stop the free-flowing of hair.
At next week's NFL owners meeting, the Chiefs are pushing for a rule change that would prevent Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and other players with dreadlocks or long hair from covering the names on the backs of their jerseys. The rule is pretty simple: Any hair that covers that area has to be addressed.
"It doesn't mean players have to cut their hair," said Atlanta Falcons president Rick McKay, co-chairman of the league's Competition Committee. "They might have to keep it under their helmet."
The competition committee is endorsing the proposal but letting the Chiefs campaign for it. Obviously, it is going to be an unpopular proposal for the players who like to grow out their hair.
Hair is considered part of the uniform, so normally there is no penalty for grabbing the hair and tackling a player. Chiefs running back Larry Johnson, however, was penalized 15 yards for a "hair" tackle of Polamalu in 2006. Officials determined Johnson lifted the hair after making a sideline tackle, which was considered unsportsmanlike conduct.
What will be interesting to watch next week is how teams vote. Teams with players with long hair may vote against it. Teams that don't have players with long hair might support the proposal to cause problems on teams within their division that have players with long hair. What will also be interesting to see if how Chief players react if they wish to have long hair.
Historically, the NFL has been strict in enforcing uniform violations. A sock that is out of place or a shirt that isn't tucked in could result in substantial fines. Now, if this proposal is passed, long-haired players will have to decide whether to cut the hair or tuck it inside the helmet.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.