PHOENIX - The NFL says it made pro football safer, particularly for defensive players, with rule changes passed at the owners meetings.
Team owners on Wed-nesday barred ball carriers from using the crown of their helmets to make forcible contact with a defender in the open field. The previous day, they eliminated the peel-back block.
The second significant player safety rule passed this week came with much debate - and some criticism, naturally, from running backs. Several coaches and team executives expressed concern about officiating the new rule, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell championed it and it passed 31-1. Cincinnati voted no.
But if it was good enough for football's greatest running back, NFL owners figure, it should work in the 21st century.
"Jim Brown never lowered his head," Steelers president Art Rooney said. "It can be done."
The tuck rule, one of the most criticized in pro football, was eliminated. Now, if a quarterback loses control of the ball before he has fully protected it after opting not to throw, it is a fumble.
Video review now will be allowed when a coach challenges a play that he is not allowed to. But the coach will be penalized or lose a timeout, depending on when he threw the challenge flag.
Rooney Rule tweaks
The NFL is looking to make the Rooney Rule more effective after eight available coaching jobs and seven for general managers did not go to a minority candidate.
The Rooney Rule, implemented in 2003, was named for Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, who pushed the league to require every team to interview at least one minority candidate for each coaching or general manager opening.
Before the rule went into effect, the NFL had had only six minority head coaches in more than 80 years.
Since it has been in place, 12 have been hired. But none this year, and not for a GM's job, either.
Plus, two black head coaches, Lovie Smith and Romeo Crennel, and one general manager, Rod Graves, were fired.
So one focal point for the league will be reinstating a program that was primarily focused on coaches, but Goodell said likely will have some potential GM candidates also attend.
• Free agent defensive end Frostee Rucker has agreed to a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals.
Rucker started all 16 games with Cleveland last season, with four sacks, a forced fumble and a pass defensed. His 48 tackles were third-most on the team.
• Free agents Dwight Freeney and John Abraham were in Denver Thursday, 48 hours after the Broncos submitted a new contract to Elvis Dumervil.
Freeney, 33, with Indianapolis last year, and Abraham, 34, who played with Atlanta, are both older and less productive than Du-mervil, 29, but might make better financial sense for the Broncos, who had to cut Dumervil last week to avoid paying him $12 million in 2013.
Coach John Fox said the Broncos were still hoping to re-sign Dumervil, but had alternatives in mind.
• The San Francisco 49ers have signed free agent safety and special teams standout Darcel McBath to a one-year contract, adding depth to the secondary. The NFC champion Niners signed Craig Dahl to a three-year contract Saturday.
• The Green Bay Packers have re-signed linebacker Brad Jones. Jones started 10 games last season and played in all 16 games. He had a career highs in tackles (102) and passes defensed (six), along with two sacks and a forced fumble.
• Redskins coach Mike Shanahan says Robert Griffin III is "ahead of schedule" in his return from knee surgery. Shanahan said the young quarterback needs to learn to slide and throw the ball away to avoid the big hits that lead to injuries.
• Former Dolphins wide receiver Mark Duper was released from jail Thursday, charged after police say he beat his 17-year-old son in a series of fights at their Jacksonville, Fla., home.
Duper, who starred for the Dolphins from 1982 to 1992, spent a night in jail after his arrest Wednesday on one count of felony child abuse. Authorities said Duper attacked his son, Marcus, three times and knocked him out twice.
Former Dolphins defensive end Hugh Green told The Associated Press that he witnessed the brawls. He said Marcus Duper started the fights, thinking he could "beat his father."
• Chicago Bears fullback Evan Rodriguez faces char-ges after Miami Beach police say he refused to cooperate with officers when a car he was riding in crashed.
Rodriguez, 24, was arrested early Thursday on charges of disorderly intoxication and resisting an officer at 5:32 a.m. but released later on $1,500 bail.