Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis sounds a little bit like his owner when it comes to the "Crown Rule" the league adopted last month.
It is now a 15-yard penalty and a finable offense if a player who is more than three yards downfield or outside of the tackle box delivers a blow with the crown of his helmet. If the offensive and defensive player each lowers his head and uses the crown of the helmet to make contact, each will be penalized.
Green-Ellis, a power runner off a 1,000-yard season in his first year with the Bengals, backs the safety issue and doesn't think it affects his straight-ahead style. He likes the idea, particularly after his friend and ex-teammate, Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, was knocked cold in the AFC championship game.
But he also wonders how the refs are going to be able to call it, which is one of the reasons Bengals president Mike Brown cast the lone dissenting vote.
"If you ask me, I think there's no way that anyone would want to lead with their head. You never know what's going to happen with your neck and spinal injuries," Green-Ellis reflected Tuesday after the Bengals held their pro day for local college prospects at Paul Brown Stadium.
"I'm all for the safety part of it. I just don’t know how they're going to call it. They're putting a lot on the referees. That's to be played out. That's what the preseason is for and that type of stuff."
Although he's classified as a power runner, BJGE says the rule doesn't impact him.
"Negative. If you go back and watch the film, I don't lead with my head at all," he said. "The rule doesn't really affect me. It's really a safety issue if you ask me. You lead with your shoulder and you use your head to protect the ball. I think that's right. People shouldn't lead with their head because they have the potential to break their necks."
The tape backs him up. The NFL looked at games from Week 10 and 16 last season and the Bengals weren't involved in the 11 plays the Crown penalty would have been called, a ratio the NFL says was about 50-50 offense and defense. And they were able to see BJGE run it 30 times in the games against the Giants and Steelers.
But Green-Ellis has a great history of protecting the ball and the head is a factor. When he lost his first NFL fumble in Washington back on Sept. 23 in his 57th pro game, it ended a streak of 589 straight touches without a fumble, the longest skein to start a career since the end of World War II. He also used his head and shoulders well enough to lead the NFL last season in a 14-for-15 effort on third-and-one conversions.
"If we're going from tackle to tackle on fourth-and-one, we're going to go get it," Green-Ellis said. "There's a difference between lowering your shoulder, which you have to lower your head to do, and leading with the top of your head.
"I think they'll have a hard time discerning when a guy is lowering his shoulder and protecting the ball and when a guy is lowering his head and going straight into a guy. It's a new rule and you have to adjust. You can't argue about it. The defense has been going through the same thing the last couple of years where they couldn't lead with their helmet. Sometimes the referees miss it, but that's part of the game. They're putting more in the hands of the referees and we just have to continue to adjust."
BJGE believes the rule stems from Ravens safety Bernard Pollard's hit on Ridley and he thinks it was the only call to make.
"It was on national TV and sent everybody into a thing and rightfully so," BJGE said. "(Ridley) led with his helmet and him and Bernard Pollard had a head-on collision and it was dangerous. It was scary for everybody to watch … me … at home people are watching, the kids. It's a nationally televised game and the NFL is on the biggest stage in the AFC championship and you get a guy to go to sleep, that doesn't look good for the league. In hindsight you have to do something about it.
"It's just going to be difficult when to throw the flag for the referee. When is he protecting the ball and when is he putting his head right into a guy?"