PHOENIX -- Like a lot of NFL coaches, the Seattle Seahawks' Pete Carroll thinks officials will have a hard time enforcing a new rule banning ball carriers from initiating contact with the crowns of their helmets when outside the tackle box.
Carroll supports the rule anyway while acknowledging that his own running back, the exceedingly punishing Marshawn Lynch, might have to adjust some.
"It's a challenging proposal in that it's for the officials to determine whether there was intent," Carroll said Wednesday from the NFL owners meeting. "We feel as coaches that it’s going to be very challenging for those guys to call. But it’s a good move to teach football players of all levels how to not lead with their helmets."
Earlier in the week, St. Louis Rams coach and competition committee member Jeff Fisher joined vice president of officiating Dean Blandino in walking reporters through a video presentation on the rule. I raised the same point Carroll made about officials having to determine intent.
"We are not officiating intent," Blandino replied "We are looking for the lowering of the head and the delivering of the blow with the crown. We look at the helmet as four sides: there is the facemask, there [are] the sides, there is the hairline-forehead, which is just above the facemask, and then the crown. If you put a beanie on top of your head, that would be the crown there."
The league evaluated every play from every game of Week 16 last season. It found 34 cases of helmet-to-helmet collisions, five of them in violation of the new rules.
The rule applies only to collisions outside the tackle box, which extends 3 yards past the line of scrimmage between the offensive tackles.
"It's that play where two players are coming together like this and dropping their helmets where they make contact with the top crown of the helmet," Fisher said. "Basically, the best way to phrase this is we're bringing the shoulder back in the game. We all know the helmet is a protective device; it's not designed to be used like it's being used as of late and we want to protect our players, specifically out in space."
Carroll expects a sometimes bumpy transition period where made and missed calls will generate controversy. But he thinks the NFL's commitment to improving safety justifies the change.
"This is one of those areas that has been accepted for years and years and years in the league," Carroll said, "as a play that is just part of the game that we are going to try to affect."
As for Lynch?
"He's a mixture, a very unique talent in the way he plays," Carroll said. "But he is not a guy that definitely leads with his helmet all the time."