Fined if you do, fined if you don't?

Marcel Reece
Marcel Reece sees a no-win situation for NFL running backs.
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Alex Marvez

Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for He has covered the NFL for the past 18 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also is a frequent host on Sirius XM NFL Radio.


NAPA, Calif.

Oakland Raiders fullback Marcel Reece has a theory about the NFL’s new rule pertaining to illegal contact by an offensive player with the crown of the helmet.


Jeremy Maclin was the first big name to fall. What other NFL players have suffered major injuries in 2013?

Pay the league or pay the price with your coaches.

Any use of the top or crown of the helmet to intentionally initiate contact outside of the tackle box will now draw a 15-yard penalty. Like with defenders who illegally use their helmets when hitting offensive players, a fine is also possible following review by the league office.

NFL teams approved the rule, which is aimed to improve player safety, by a 31-1 margin last March. The Cincinnati Bengals were the lone dissenting franchise.

Members of the NFL competition committee that proposes rule changes to the league have said running backs can learn to lower their shoulder rather than drop their heads when trying to steamroll a defender. Reece, though, believes that’s easier said than done.

“I’m going to tell you this much: A solider is going to be a soldier,” Reece told me and co-host Gil Brandt on SiriusXM NFL Radio at Raiders training camp. “In war, you’re going to fight. Whatever happens happens. If it ends up being a fine, it ends up being a fine.

“We’ve got to play football at the highest level. We play fast; we play hard. I tell you one thing — if the NFL doesn’t fine us and we don’t lower our heads or our shoulders, I bet you our coaches will fine us. . . . If we do something wrong, we’re going to pay for the consequences.”

The running back for whom Reece paves the way in Oakland’s offense had a more politically correct response.

“As a running back, you don’t want to hit with the top of your head,” Darren McFadden said Monday. “You’ve got to go out there and run behind your pads. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for me at all.”

At the start of training camp, Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz told Lions media that there would be a “big push” by his team to avoid helmet-to-helmet contact in practices.

“The rule about not putting your head down, I think that’s something that some players are going to have to change a little bit about the way they’ve done things,” Schwartz said. “It’s going to be a little different, so there’s going to be some learning process. The sooner they can start that, I think it benefits everybody.”

Especially when it comes to potentially saving offensive players some cash.

Tagged: Raiders, Marcel Reece

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