The "Tuck Rule": It's known most famously for one specific playoff instance, but this year the "Tuck Rule" has been modified. In the past when the passing hand was moving forward with the ball, it was a pass until the ball was tucked. The removal of the tuck rule this offseason means that when a player begins to tuck the ball back towards his body, if he loses it, it's a fumble, unlike in the past when it would have been considered a pass. Blandino said the advancement in officiating technology has allowed for this change and given the officials the opportunity to determine when the tuck is made. The rule broken down simply by Blandino: "Once you start the tuck, any subsequent loss of control would make it a fumble versus having to complete the tuck for it to be a fumble."
It's Pretty Common: According to Blandino, the "Tuck Rule" call would come up around 10 or 11 times a year and the final determination is when the tuck occurs and if it's a fumble. The call would be reversed in only about four or five of these instances in the past because the tuck had begun. Now, he said, those will be fumbles and the NFL wants to get those calls right because they "are big plays or potential change of possession."
Required Pads: The league made knee and thigh pads mandatory this season and if the players are wearing them as directed, there should never be an issue. Uniform inspectors already ensure each player is following the uniform rules and the new additions to the policy will be treated the same. The inspectors will notice violations in the pregame warm-ups and the player will have the opportunity to correct it. If they do, then they can play, but Blandino said they can't play until the issue is corrected. If a player's knee or thigh pads are damaged or removed during the game, he'll be removed from the game until it is fixed.
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Crown Of The Helmet: Easily the most discussed rule change this year is the illegality for offensive or defensive players to lower the crown of their helmet outside the tackle box. Blandino said the rule prevents contact with the crown of the helmet, but officials are trained to ensure the rule and subsequent calls have three components: "You have to line up the opponent, lower the head and then deliver a forceful blow with the crown, which is the top of the helmet. If all three components aren't there, there's no foul and the contact is legal."
More Injury Concern? Blandino said the refs are working with teams and players in the offseason and during camp to help them understand the parameters and components of the rule and what it will look like in an officiated NFL game. From there coaching staffs must teach and train correctly so that illegal hits can be removed from the game. Some have expressed concern that the rule change will result in more lower leg and knee injuries, but Blandino doesn't see it that way. He offers a different way to look at the rule change moving forward: "The whole point of the rule is to get the shoulder back into the game and take the head further out of it. When you talk about running and tackling, players are trying to get low, they're trying to get leverage. They're already trying to get low, so we don't think we're going to have more targeting the knees. We just feel that this rule will really bring the shoulder back in. It'll be an incentive for coaches to coach against this technique of using the head and lowering the head. That's really what we feel is going to happen, the shoulder coming back into the game."