New NFL rule would bar helmet hits by the rusher

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore runs through a tackle by Baltimore Ravens cornerback...

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore runs through a tackle by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Corey Graham during the third quarter in the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game in New Orleans, La., Feb. 3, 2013. (REUTERS/Sean Gardner)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

A rule proposed by the NFL’s competition committee would make it a foul for a ball carrier to smash into a defender with the crown of his helmet in open space.

It would be the first rule in American football history limiting a runner’s contact with a defender, outside of egregious acts such as punching a tackler, or grabbing his facemask while stiff-arming.

Owners vote next Wednesday at the league’s annual meeting in Phoenix on whether to approve this and five other proposed new rules, announced Thursday by the competition committee on a conference call with NFL writers.

Sure to be the most controversial of the six proposed changes is the runner-contact rule. It reads:

“It is a foul if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside of the tackle box. Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul.”

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