From now on, lowering your head and driving the crown of your helmet into a defender outside the tackle box will get you a 15-yard penalty. That’s what the NFL decided during its recent owners meetings in Phoenix. Call this new decree the anti-trucking rule. Or if you’re a Vikings fan, maybe you’re calling it the Stop Adrian Peterson rule. It certainly looks like a rule aimed directly at Adrian and other very physical running backs. We know how Adrian loves lowering his head and driving into defenders. And we know how much we love watching him do it.
How you feel about this I guess depends on how far you think the league should go in protecting player safety. This rule is being put in place to curb potential neck and head injuries and of course protect the league from any lawsuits that might result from said injuries. But do rules like this go too far in removing the physicality from the game? Is the game being turned into flag football as some contend? Is it silly to even try and remove the violence from such an inherently violent game?
These are all important questions. For Viking fans there’s an even more fundamental question though. How is this rule going to affect Adrian Peterson? Is Adrian going to have to dial it back now to avoid getting called for all sorts of penalties? Does Adrian even know how to dial it back?
It’s a very important question I believe. How do you tell an instinctively physical, even violent player like Adrian Peterson to tone it down? And if he does tone it down, how much is he diminished as a player?
That I think is the fear for fans. That Peterson will lose something as a player if he is concentrating on being less violent. You can even argue that making guys worry about this stuff puts them at more risk of injury. I don’t have any idea how Peterson will handle it. The problem is, this isn’t just an issue of fines. If players were only being fined for these plays, Adrian could keep playing the way he plays and just pay the fines. But when it’s a 15-yard penalty it becomes a much different deal. Now you’re potentially affecting the outcome of games.
Never mind the fact that you’re giving already over-taxed officials even more things to watch for. That’s possibly the biggest part of this new debate. The game is already so fast and so chaotic that officials sometimes seem overwhelmed. And here’s one more thing for them to look at. One more judgment call to make. The rule has so much grey area to it. You know there will be controversies. A big game will be won or lost over the interpretation of this rule. It’s almost as silly and vague as the “completing the process” rule.
Why put officials under the gun like this? I know what the NFL is after but they must have clearly-defined rules. They risk making their own game into a mockery by creating so many judgment-call situations. You want consistency from your officials. But how can you have consistency when so many calls are so subjective?
This opens a big can of worms potentially. But we won’t know how big a can until we actually see the rule in action. Then we can see how the refs call it. We can see how players like Adrian Peterson deal with it. If the refs start calling these things all over the place, there could be a problem. Because I don’t see Adrian dialing it back. His instinct is to lower his head. How does he relearn his whole style of running after all this time?
But of course there’s another way of looking at this. You could argue that it’s good for guys like Peterson to learn a new style of running and learn to curb their instincts a little. You can argue that these guys need to be protected from themselves. Maybe this rule helps prolong Adrian’s career by forcing him to keep his head up. I don’t know. Like I said, we’ll have to see how it plays out. Right now it looks like the NFL is going overboard in the name of safety and taking a little bit of the fun out of the game. And possibly taking away from Adrian Peterson’s game. And Viking fans are understandably nervous about the second point.