11 NFL Rules Named After People

New rules in the National Football League, as in any sport, are often enacted in response to repeated on-the-field actions or bizarre incidents involving a specific player or coach. These rules commonly take the name of the individuals indirectly responsible for their creation. Here are 11 such rules you can bring up during today's conference championship games.

1. Bill Belichick Rule

Since 1994, NFL quarterbacks have been permitted to wear speakers in their helmets, enabling coaches on the sideline to communicate plays to them without the use of hand signals. Beginning in 2007, lime-green stickers were used to mark these radio-equipped helmets. During the 2008 offseason, the NFL passed a rule that allowed one defensive player on the field to have a speaker in his helmet. The season before, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots were fined for videotaping a game against the New York Jets from an unauthorized location in order to learn their defensive hand signals. “If you didn’t have any signals, it wouldn’t have happened,” former Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said of the Spygate scandal. “I’m just happy to get something passed. That way you don’t have to worry about it. People were putting towels up in front of people. You shouldn’t have to play football that way.” The Patriots voted in favor of the proposal.

2. Bronco Nagurski Rule

The Bronco Nagurski Rule was enacted after a controversial finish in the 1932 NFL championship game between Nagurski’s Chicago Bears and the Portsmouth Spartans. At the time, a forward pass was only legal if it was thrown from at least five yards behind the line of scrimmage. After Nagurski was stuffed twice on runs up the middle in a tie game, he took a few steps back and threw a pass to Red Grange for a touchdown. Portsmouth’s coach argued that Nagurski wasn’t five yards behind the line of scrimmage when he threw the pass, but the call stood and the Bears went on to win 9-0. The following season, the league declared that forward passes could be made from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage.

3. Ken Stabler Rule

In 1979, the NFL enacted a rule in response to a play during the 1978 season that became known as “The Holy Roller.” With five seconds remaining and the Oakland Raiders trailing the San Diego Chargers by six points, Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler dropped back to pass from the San Diego 23-yard line for an apparent last-ditch heave into the end zone. Stabler was pressured, however, and in an effort to avoid a sure sack, intentionally fumbled the ball forward. The ball rolled to Raiders fullback Pete Banaszak, who kicked the ball forward to tight end Dave Casper. Casper dribbled the ball into the end zone before falling on it for the winning touchdown.

The resulting rule, which is informally known as the Ken Stabler or Raider Rule, prohibits an offensive player other than the player who fumbled the ball from recovering or advancing a fumble on fourth down or on any down in the final two minutes of a half. If another offensive player recovers the ball, it is placed back at the spot of the fumble.

4. Emmitt Smith Rule

In 1997, the NFL enacted Player Conduct Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1, which prohibits a player from removing his helmet while on the field. The rule was informally named after Smith, the Hall of Fame running back who had a habit of removing his helmet to celebrate touchdowns—including after the TD he scored on his first carry of the 1995 season. “I had just come off a serious injury, and all I read about was how I supposedly had lost a step, that I was on the down side of my career,” Smith told the Dallas Morning News. “I went 60 yards on my first carry and my hamstring didn’t pull. I was excited.”

Smith was flagged for removing his helmet during the first season that the rule was enforced. “Is it a badge of honor?” Smith told the Austin American-Statesman. “No, it’s not.”

5. Greg Pruitt Rule

Cleveland Browns running back Greg Pruitt was one of several NFL players who wore tear-away jerseys during the 1970s as a sneaky means of shaking off would-be tacklers. Pruitt rushed for 1,000 yards for three consecutive seasons from 1975-77. “For it to be effective, you couldn’t wear anything under it,” Pruitt told Cleveland Magazine. “It got pretty cold playing on the lakefront.”

The league banned tear-away jerseys in 1979. Pruitt was named to five Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl with the Raiders in 1983.

6. Hines Ward Rule

In 2009, the NFL enacted a rule that prohibits blindside blocks that come from the blocker’s helmet, forearm, or shoulder and land to the head or neck area of the defender. The rule is informally known as the Hines Ward Rule, after the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver who established a reputation for leveling unsuspecting defenders and broke Keith Rivers’ jaw with a vicious block in 2008. “It’s kind of funny because week in and week out, that’s all we see is highlights of somebody getting blown up by a defensive player,” Ward told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “In my case it’s shunned or doesn’t look good or makes me a dirty player. I don’t do anything different than what they do to offensive players.”

7. Lester Hayes Rule

In 1981, the NFL banned the use of Stickum, a sticky substance used to improve grip that was popularized by Oakland Raiders cornerback Lester Hayes. During the 1980 season, including the playoffs, the substance helped Hayes haul in 19 interceptions. "You practically had to pry the ball loose from him whenever he got his hands on it," Raiders linebacker Ted Hendricks said of Hayes in a 2007 interview with ESPN’s Jeffri Chadiha.

8. Phil Dawson Rule

During a 2007 game in Baltimore, Dawson’s unusual 51-yard field goal led to the adoption of a new rule. Dawson’s kick, which tied the game, was initially ruled no good, as the ball deflected off the left upright and down off the stanchion support post behind the crossbar before bouncing back over the crossbar and into the end zone. While replay rules did not allow for the review of field goals at the time, officials reversed the call after a brief discussion on the field. The Phil Dawson Rule enacted the following season allowed for field goals and extra points that hit the crossbar or uprights to be reviewed.

9. Ricky Williams Rule

The Ricky Williams Rule, which was enacted in 2003, declared that a player’s hair was an extension of his uniform and therefore fair game for tacklers. The rule was informally named after Williams, the Miami Dolphins’ dreadlocked running back. It’s probably not a coincidence that most NFL players with long hair play defense, but defenders aren’t entirely safe from the dangers of hair-pulling. In 2006, Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson dragged Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu down by his hair after an interception. “The dude had hair,” Johnson said of his tackle. “What do you want me to do?” Polamalu has since insured his hair for $1 million.

10. Roy Williams Rule

The rule banning horse-collar tackles, in which a defender whips a player to the ground by grabbing the back of his shoulder pads, is informally named after Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams and was enacted before the 2005 season. Williams broke Terrell Owens’s ankle and also ended the seasons of Musa Smith and Tyrone Calico with horse-collar tackles in 2004. “I play by whatever rules the NFL lays down,” Williiams said after the rule was enacted. “If there’s a type of tackle that’s legal, I’ll use it. If it’s not legal, I won’t. It’s as simple as that.” Williams was suspended for one game in 2007 after being flagged for his third horse-collar tackle of the season.

11. Tom Dempsey

New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey was born without toes on his right foot and wore a modified shoe with a flattened and enlarged toe surface. Dempsey booted an NFL record 63-yard field goal to beat the Detroit Lions in 1970. In 1977, the NFL enacted a rule that requires “any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe." In 1956, the Lou Groza Rule banned the use of artificial aids for kickers. Groza, a Hall of Famer for the Cleveland Browns, used a strip of tape to line up his kicks and a special tee to help guide the ball off his foot.

11 Masks That Will Keep You Safe and Stylish

Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods
Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods

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8 Facts About "Rowdy" Roddy Piper

Matthew Peyton/Getty Images
Matthew Peyton/Getty Images

It takes a strong personality to stand out in a sport full of them, but Roderick George Toombs, otherwise known as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (1954-2015), managed to sustain a career as one of the most colorful characters in the history of professional wrestling. For more on “Hot Rod,” including his martial arts background and his unlikely turn as a big-screen hero, keep reading.

1. Roddy Piper was a very accomplished bagpipe player.

Born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on April 17, 1954, the future “Rowdy” Roddy Piper earned his nickname early in life. According to Piper, he was “too much” for his parents to handle and wound up leaving home at the age of 13. Piper lived in youth hostels and hitchhiked. Despite his nomadic lifestyle, he was an accomplished bagpipe player and claimed he played in the Rose Bowl at age 12 before being nationally recognized for his abilities on the instrument at age 14.

It was the bagpipes that led to Piper’s career in wrestling. Playing with a band one night at the Winnipeg Arena when he was still a teenager, Piper—who was also an amateur wrestler and boxer—volunteered to step in for a wrestler who didn’t show up for a scheduled bout against Larry Henning. Piper came to the ring in a kilt and was announced as “Roddy the Piper.” Though the bout lasted just 10 seconds, he had found his calling.

2. Roddy Piper once wrestled a bear.

Before Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (later World Wrestling Entertainment) organized pro wrestling in the United States, various regional organizations would do whatever they could to garner attention and fans. While performing in Fresno, California, a young Piper got an offer to wrestle “The Bear.” Piper believed this was one of wrestling’s theatrical nicknames. It wasn’t. The promoter, Roy Scheiers, wanted Piper to grapple with a real Kodiak bear that had been declawed. Though Piper was expected to try and pin the bear, the animal maintained a dominant position until its handler used a tranquilizer to end the match. Piper later discovered a friend had smeared honey in his trunks to make the bear more aggressive.

3. Roddy Piper was a black belt in judo.

Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka look on as "Rowdy" Roddy Piper battles WWE Superstar Chris Jericho during WrestleMania 25 in 2009.Bill Olive/Getty Images

When Piper moved to California in 1973, he wrestled frequently at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. The promoter for the territory was Mike LeBell, who had a half-brother, Gene LeBell, a renowned martial artist who practiced judo. Piper and Gene LeBell became friends. LeBell taught him judo and eventually awarded Piper a black belt in the art.

4. Roddy Piper suffered permanent hearing loss as a result of wrestling.

While wrestling may sometimes be dismissed as fake, injuries are a very real and common occurrence for its athletes. In 1983, Piper agreed to wrestle a “dog collar match” with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. In the bout, the men would be connected via a chain attached to their respective neck collars. When one wrestler had enough slack on the chain, he would use it to assault his opponent. Having the chain smashed into his head broke Piper’s left eardrum and cost him a 50 percent loss of hearing in that ear. Owing to the nature of wrestling tours, Piper and Valentine wrestled the same dog collar match dozens of times over the next two months.

5. Roddy Piper did not get along with Mr. T.

When McMahon had consolidated a number of wrestling territories in the 1980s, his next move was to create a large-scale event with a lot of hype behind it. WrestleMania debuted in 1985 and featured Hulk Hogan and Mr. T taking on Paul Orndorff and Piper in the main event. Mr. T was a celebrity thanks to his performance as Clubber Lang in 1982’s Rocky III as well as the NBC television series The A-Team. But Piper was wary of losing a bout to someone who was only making a passing appearance in the wrestling world and told McMahon he wouldn’t allow Mr. T to defeat him in the bout. It was Orndorff who was pinned. For WrestleMania 2 the following year, Piper and Mr. T faced each other again, this time in a simulated boxing match. Piper lost by disqualification after body-slamming Mr. T, a clear violation of the rules.

6. John Carpenter cast Roddy Piper in They Live because the wrestler walked funny.

Roddy Piper stars in They Live (1988).Shout! Factory

In 1988’s They Live, a drifter with the enigmatic name of John Nada (Piper) discovers a subversive alien plot to control humans via subliminal messages. Director John Carpenter cast Piper after meeting the wrestler following his match in 1987’s WrestleMania III. “Unlike most Hollywood actors, Roddy has life written all over him,” Carpenter told Starlog in 1988. “He has been hit so many times, that he is really broken up. He even walks funny, because his pelvis was shattered and his back was wrenched. He is definitely not a pretty boy. He’s the toughest guy I’ve ever met. You could run a truck into Roddy, and he would still be standing.”

Piper’s shopworn physicality won him the role. They Live went on to become a cult classic, in part due to a ridiculously long fight scene between Piper and actor Keith David.

7. Roddy Piper became a member of G.I. Joe.

In 2007, Hasbro unveiled a limited-edition G.I. Joe figure of Piper as an Iron Grenadier Trainer from the Scottish Army for their annual International G.I. Joe Convention. He joined fellow wrestler Sergeant Slaughter, who debuted as a Joe in the 1980s. Piper also appeared at the convention to sign autographs.

8. Roddy Piper released a pop song in 1992.

Along with Hulk Hogan and other wrestlers, Piper helped popularize the WWE in the 1980s by appearing alongside singer Cyndi Lauper in music videos and on MTV. Lauper even got in the ring on occasion. In 1992, Piper got out of his own comfort zone by recording a single, “I’m Your Man,” that was released in the UK by Epic Records. You can watch Piper croon in the video above.