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Dorsey Levens on D&C: NFL rule change prohibiting leading with helmet ‘a great idea’

03.21.13 at 10:12 am ET
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Former NFL running back Dorsey Levens checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to discuss the league’s new rule change that prohibits ball-carriers from lowering the crown of their helmets outside of the tackle box.

The hope is that the rule change will prevent concussions and other serious injuries.

“A lot really depends on the defender,” Levens said. “If you’re a running back, see him coming in full speed, sometimes you have to protect yourself. Sometimes guys use your head as a weapon, because if you’re running full speed and the guy tries to wrap you up with your arms, and he catches the crown of your helmet, he could break his arm. Guys know that, which is why running backs use the lowering of the head as a weapon down the field. But, I understand the rule change and there’s going to be some more coming down the pipe.”

While some current and former NFL players have spoken out against the rule, Levens sees both sides and agrees with a lot of what commissioner Roger Goodell is trying to do.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Levens said. “Like I said, it all goes back to safety, and that’s the priority. … I think the smaller, more shifty backs never really lowered their heads anyway. Other guys, the bigger guys know that they could use that crown as a weapon over the guys who don’t like it as much. But the big guy likes it, like [Brandon] Jacobs.”

Levens played in the league for 11 years, spending the majority and most successful part of his career with the Packers, and he understands the thinking of running backs who want to lead with their head.

“What happens is, it’s kind of instinctive especially within that three- to five-yard area.” Levens said, adding: “On third-and-1, or fourth-and-1, a lot of times if you don’t put your head down you’re not going to get the first down, and guys understand that. If you need that one yard, guys are going to do whatever it takes, and that helmet will get people out of your way faster than anything else. But again, if guys on the defensive side were just as willing and able to put that head down and meet you head on, and I think that’s the concern because if the defensive guy and offensive guy do it, and they hit crown to crown, that’s when the serious neck injuries come in.”

Levens also discussed what he believes is behind all of the recent rule alterations with regard to player safety.

“I think [the rules] are well intentioned,” Levens said. “But I think everything that surrounds the concussions has a lot to do with it as well. I think a lot of it may be preemptive strike, with these lawsuits coming down the pipe. … For whatever reason they’re doing it, it needs to be done and I applaud them for doing that.”

Some fans and analysts have talked about the continuing efforts of the league as possibly a negative, feeling that the sport is losing what makes it great: the physical contact.

“I don’t think we’re going to be starting flag football like everyone is afraid of,” Levens said. “It’ll never get to that because at the end of the day, football’s a contact sport and people want to see that contact. That’s what attracts people to football. So if you take away that element of it and you make it too soft, then you’re going to lose the fan base. That’s part of the excitement in football, it’s the contact.”

To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

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