A rule proposed by the NFL’s competition committee would make it a foul for a ball carrier to smash into a defender with the crown of his helmet in open space.

It would be the first rule in American football history limiting a runner’s contact with a defender, outside of egregious acts such as punching a tackler, or grabbing his facemask while stiff-arming.

Owners vote next Wednesday at the league’s annual meeting in Phoenix on whether to approve this and five other proposed new rules, announced Thursday by the competition committee on a conference call with NFL writers.

Sure to be the most controversial of the six proposed changes is the runner-contact rule. It reads:

“It is a foul if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside of the tackle box. Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul.”

Rich McKay, president and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons and chairman of the competition committee, elaborated.

“This is a pure and simple player-safety rule proposal, first and foremost,” he said. “We really think the time has come that we need to address the situation in space when a runner or a tackler has a choice as to how they are going to approach the opponent. We are going to say that you can’t make that choice ducking your head and delivering a blow, a forcible blow, with the top crown of your helmet. We are trying to protect the runner or the tackler from himself in that instance.”