NFL passes 'helmet crown' rule during winter meetings


PHOENIX — NFL owners passed a player safety rule Wednesday barring ball carriers from using the crown of their helmets to make forcible contact with a defender in the open field.


Several coaches and team executives expressed concern about officiating the new rule, but Commissioner Roger Goodell championed it and it passed Wed­nesday as the owners meetings concluded.

Its passage by a 31-1 vote – Cincinnati voted no – was the second significant step in protecting defensive players; on Tuesday, the league took the peel-back block out of the game.

“There was a lot of discussion,” Steelers President Art Rooney said of the helmet crown rule, “but the way it was presented was the most effective way to address it.”

The tuck rule, one of the most criticized rules in pro ball, was eliminated. Now, if a quarterback loses control of the ball before he has fully protected it after opting not to throw, it is a fumble.

Rooney said the Steelers were the only team to vote against getting rid of the tuck rule. New England and Washington abstained.

“We didn’t think it was necessary to make that change,” Rooney said. “We were happy with the way it’s been called.”

Video review now will be allowed on plays when a coach challenges even though he is not allowed to. But the coach will be penalized or lose a timeout, depending on when he threw the challenge flag.

BEARS: Brian Urlacher wanted to re-sign with Chicago.

Instead, the Bears are parting ways with the veteran linebacker after 13 years.

General manager Phil Emery said that the team couldn’t agree on a contract with Urlacher, for years the heart and face of the franchise. He is now a free agent after being slowed by a knee problem and then missing the last four games of the season with a hamstring injury.

TEXANS: Free-agent safety Ed Reed is on the verge of joining Houston, according to multiple reports.

According to reports, the Texans offered Reed, who has spent his entire career with the Baltimore Ravens, a three-year deal in the salary range of $4 million per year, though Reed has been seeking a salary similar to the $7.2 million he earned last season.