MANKATO, Minn. – When Adrian Peterson learned of the NFL’s new rule this season regarding leading with the crown of your helmet, he believed he and his running back brethren were being unfairly targeted.
The reigning MVP was one of the examples the league used in trying to take away plays that lead with the crown of the helmet. Peterson’s natural instincts have always led him to drop his head and drive forward for more yards.
Videos of the plays the league hopes to eradicate this season, with penalties for leading with the crown of the helmet, often showed off some of Peterson’s big runs with him bowling over defenders. Running backs like Peterson were outraged when the new rule was approved. But Peterson said he misunderstood the rule and now has a better understanding.
“I thought it was pointed just at the running backs and I thought that was wrong, way wrong,” Peterson said. “But once I got to understanding, in the big picture, you hear about a lot of guys injuring themselves with their head down; not a lot of running backs, but defensive guys. For the sport and the health of the players, the rule was put in play. And once I found out that it involves all players, I was cool with it.”
One of the classic example of the new rule involved Peterson in a 2009 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Peterson caught a pass in the middle of the field and lowered his head into the chest of Pittsburgh’s William Gay, knocking him to the ground and Peterson continued for a big gain.
Players will now draw a 15-yard penalty for leading with the crown of their helmet in cases where players are more than three yards downfield or outside of the tackle box. Offensive and defensive players are both subject to the penalty and if both occur on the same play, each will be penalized.
Peterson doesn’t believe the rule will affect him, but knows countering his natural instinct will be tough and he might fall victim.
“I’m sure sometimes with natural instinct I’m going to have my head down,” Peterson said. “Hopefully they miss it.”
Peterson said he’d draw on the lessons he learned long ago from coaches about keeping his head up. The rule doesn’t legislate against leading using the facemask or hairline of the helmet to initiate contact.
“‘Keep your head low but make sure you keep your face up to prevent injuries,'” Peterson said in recalling what he was told earlier in his football career. “So, it’s something you’re always conscious of, even though it’s a natural reaction to kind of lower your head at times. So, with me using that as more of a motivation, hey, I’ll make sure I’m keeping my head up so I’m not injuring myself or injuring anyone else. I think it will be easy to adjust.”