NFL notes: Helmet rule passes, tuck rule eliminated
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 football, 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.
Also, 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.
Around the league
Bears • Chicago is parting ways with veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher after 13 years. General manager Phil Emery said Wednesday that the team couldn't agree on a contract with Urlacher, for years the heart and face of the franchise.
Broncos • Denver is set to talk with free agent pass rushers Dwight Freeney and John Abraham on Thursday, 48 hours after it submitted a new contract proposal to Elvis Dumervil.
Texans • Free-agent safety Ed Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection with Baltimore, is on the verge of joining Houston, according to multiple reports. The NFL Network quoted Reed as saying he was headed to Houston "unless something changes."
Also, free-agent cornerback Brice McCain has signed a three-year contract to stay with Houston. McCain was a sixth-round draft pick out of Utah in 2009.
O April 26-28
Where • New York
TV • ESPN, NFL Network