Facemask Penalty Was Brought In Because of Lane's Tackling

Published on November 3rd, 2023 11:51 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

Richard the Night Train Lane - Illustration.  Avatar art.  Sketch. Richard "Night Train" Lane is one of the best defensive players to have ever lived.

In addition to being very good, Lane was also very ferocious, striking fear into the hearts of offensive players, which made him even more effective.

Lane, who has a 7x First-Team All-Pro and 3x Second-Team All-Pro, was known for his crazy tackles.

In fact, Richard Lane is DIRECTLY responsible for the introduction of the facemasking penalty to the NFL.


In a 1961 game between the Lions and Rams, Los Angeles running back Jon Arnett was sprinting down the field.

Richard Lane was desperate to stop Arnett, so he grabbed the only thing that he could get a hold off - Arnett's facemask.

Lane gripped Arnett's helmet and pulled, bringing Arnett down to the turf in a heap. Arnett was temporarily knocked unconscious.

At the time, there were no rules against facemasking - what Lane did was totally legal.

At the time, horse collar tackles and even clotheslines were still legal as well, though they would eventually be outlawed.


The very next year, due to worries over player injuries, the NFL stepped in and formulated a rule that would ban facemasking.

This was a direct result of Lane's facemask penalty on Jon Arnett the previous year.

It is incredible to think that there was a time when facemasking was legal.


Lane would remain in the NFL for another four years after the rule was implemented.

Lane's ferocious style of play helped to contribute to a number of rule changes in the NFL.

Lane would essentially elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and is still regarded as one of the best defensive players of all time.

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