As protective padding improves, NFL players use helmets as “armament”


The NFL’s Competition Committee is urging owners to expand the rule against one player launching himself into another, and Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay says it’s the evolution of the helmet that has made that rule necessary.

Specifically, McKay says, as helmets have gotten bigger, harder and better at protecting players’ heads from injuries, the unintended consequence has been that players are more confident in their helmets — and therefore more willing to launch themselves headfirst into opposing players.

“That’s a tactic we’ve seen more of — we’ve certainly seen more of it when we watch college tape than you’d like to see also,” McKay said today at the league meeting. “When a player leaves his feet either prior to or during contact to spring forward and upward and then strikes the opponent with the initial force being with his helmet.”

In the past, players viewed their helmets as a protective padding that helped them avoid injury when they got hit in the head. Now too many players view their helmets as a battering ram to help them dish out punishment.

“What we’re seeing more players do is become comfortable with the idea that their helmet can be the initial point of contact, either to tackle or block. . . . It’s a problem that is presented by the helmet and the shoulder pads, too,” McKay said. “These were protective padding by design in the 50s and 60s and I think it’s become a little more comfortable for players to be worn as almost armament, if you will — feeling very comfortable that they’re not susceptible to injury when they use their helmet, and that’s what this rule is directed at, to get that tactic out of the game.”

NFL owners are expected to vote tomorrow to strengthen the rules against launching — which should serve as a reminder that helmets are meant to make the game safer, not to make it easier for players to initiate contact at full-speed, head-first.

Failing that, perhaps the NFL should just go back to the days when players didn’t wear helmets.

24 responses to “As protective padding improves, NFL players use helmets as “armament”

  1. Wow. Deep thinking. Helmets as weapons? Who would have considered it! You want safety? Eliminate helmets altogether, but then who really wants safety in the National Footbal League?

  2. Thats the most retarded thing I’ve ever heard.

    “There helmets are too safe so now they are using them to hit other players”

    Well if the other player has that helmet too, he’ll be fine.

  3. “Failing that, perhaps the NFL should just go back to the days when players didn’t wear helmets.”

    Well that’s original. Was it Ditka(I know someone did) that suggested taking the facemasks off? They’d still have the helmets to protect the egg shell but they wouldn’t have those facemasks to protect the ol’ face. Even the worst violators would back off the helmet first hits after a few face’s full of pads…

  4. Who’s kidding who? The so-called ‘changes’ in helmets have only served to protect the hitter, not the the one being hit. Concussions and head injuries are increasing.

    Helmet technology (or the shameful lack thereof) is one of the NFL’s dirty little secrets. Every other piece of equipment has improved dramatically in design, materials and construction to become lighter, safer and more effective, but one could make a pretty strong argument that helmet protection has gotten worse.

    The helmet companies that produce the three most commonly used models are only doing token R & D on improvement because they are not being subsidized or compensated to do so – nor are they willing risk the liability for doing so on their own. Helmets have become a political football.

  5. The players will continue to do this untils somebody is killed.

    While not a fan of this team, Sean Taylor comes to mind on how to deliver a vicious blow within the rules. This dude came in with his shoulder pad and lit people up. I enjoyed watching his game because of this, and actually found his style more entertaining than the helmet to helmet stuff.

    I for one do not want to be watching when somebody’s lights go out forever.

  6. More evidence that owners are hypocrites.

    They can solve over half of the concussions in the league if they required grass fields (not to mention grass would cut down on the torn ACLs).

    But hey…owners want fast players on fast surfaces and loud crunches. Faster players and more b.s ticky-tack penalties = bigger scores which equals more inner city youth buying the jerseys of players who’d be 1980’s practice squad players (i.e. DeSean Jackson).

  7. Simple. You need to pad the outside as well as the inside of the helmet. The outside to soften the blow delivered and the inside to soften the blow received.

  8. the players won’t let that happen – no matter what their stance is on safety. By taking away the helmet (face mask) the league would be loaded with players who have broken noses and disfigured faces. the result would be a lowered marketability for individual players. take a look back to the players of those days – can you imagine a high def version of Red Grange (google image him for reference)

  9. Why not go back to the days of Jack “the assassin” Tatum. Nobody seemed to care as much about taking the contact out of football. Maybe the owners that dont want to pay players on IR should sell their team and diversify into, I dunno, maybe checkers. Leave football alone. A good hits a good hit. Part of the game.

  10. Helmets lessen the impact to the skull but they can’t stop the brain from sloshing around on those big hits to the head. This seems similar to the argument in baseball about the batters wearing all the pads having no fear and thus gaining an advantage. If a player uses his helmet as a weapon then fine him, suspend him, whatever. If it is incidental then leave it alone. The days of “spearing” were easier to officiate and separate the aggressive players from the cheap shot artists.

    I think the 24/7 TV coverage has caused some of this as well. You usually don’t get on SportsCenter with a textbook tackle. It does not seem that the players even know how to tackle anymore. 25 years ago, you rarely saw a defensive player launch his back into the ball carrier, now it happens every drive.

  11. Didn’t Joe Paterno say basically this months ago? I’m not the biggest JoePa fan, but he seems to be right on this one.

  12. The owners want to take injuries (especially ones that are being studied to determine links between it and things like ALS) out of the game because they don’t want to be regulated by Congress.

    It’s not altruism or worrying about paying (what amounts to pocket change in comparison to the money the league generates) to players on IR, it’s about not having to pay out hundreds of millions to implement new safety to meet government regulatory standards.

    Trust someone who has worked with the government for a while… you want to stay the **** away from them.

  13. If they’re going to change these rules, they’d better have clear video examples of what is and isn’t a legal hit. Then the refs and people applying the fines had better figure out how to abide by their own rules for a change 🙄

  14. Take off the hard candy shell and make it think foam padding. Then leading with the head won’t hurt anyone, and it would also be awkward to try to tackle someone with a big clunky foam helmet. It’ll fix the problem instantly.

  15. All you fans that say you would play for free and for the love of the game. Take one of those shots and see if you feel the same way. The NFL has glorified these hits for years and now oh ok maybe that wasn’t a good idea.

  16. how about just taking the helmets off of the defensive players (LBs/DBs) and keeping the normal big helmets on QBs, and using a lighter soft helmet for WRs/HBs/O & D linemen/….that way guys like 08 defensive player of the year James Harrison wouldn’t be prone to headbutting little no name wrs…and the other Big Hitters (LBs/DBs) won’t go for the BIG HIT as often.

    or the league can just show video highlights of clay matthews, chad greenway, brian urlacher, and charles woodson to teach the rest of the league how to properly tackle without injuring fellow players…?

  17. I honestly didn’t read all the comments, but anyone who has ever played football, from Peewee football on; especially on defense has been taught to stick your helmet into their chest and drive them back!

    Come on, the helmet has always been used as a weapon!
    Having played both Football from Pop Warner on up, and Rugby. In Rugby we were always taught the right way to tackle, because yards didn’t matter, taking the player down did!

    In Footbal stoping the player and knocking him back mattered more!

  18. Everyone is jumping to conclusions that people in the old day never got concussions because #1 there was never really the technology to diagnose a concussion, #2 they did not get paid enough to say they got a concussion and miss potential game checks, and #3 there was not a mass paranoia over concussions that made everyone who got hit in the head think twice before saying they were fine. Any football player in America will tell you that they were taught to place their face mask in the person who has the ball’s stomach. Everyone saying that people should not tackle with their helmet and the stupid people who wrote this article saying that shoulder pads are doing the same thing should never comment on football again. Player’s should not lead with the crest of their helmet intentionally hit someone helmet to helmet. But when people are whining about wide receivers taking hits to the head or a QB getting a hand on their helmet or even a slight slap, remember that the O/D Line helmets hit each other each play and their is nobody on the NFL committee or media member complaining about them because the NFL is all about money and the interior linemen are not the face of the franchise (except maybe the Browns) and so the NFL and owners do not need to protect their investments as much.

  19. Strengthening the rules won’t stop those kinds of hits, because numbskulls, like James Harrison, still won’t understand what the rules are. Or care.

    If the NFL is going to fine players for cheap-shots, using their helmet as a weapon, then the head coaches and coordinators should be fined, as well. Or suspended an equal number of games.

    I don’t like what Goodell is doing with the fines and such, but I understand the frustration. If coaches and players were willing to change things themselves, there wouldn’t be the fines or suspensions.

    Or concussions…probably.

  20. Why not remove the crown of the helmet?

    In essence, turn the helmet into something that resembles a donut/male pattern baldness.

    By removing the crown, the helmet would still provide safety to the facial area while also diminishing the possibility that a player would expose his unprotected brain-carrier to a torpedo shot.

  21. I realise this may put the cat amongst the pidgeons so to speak. And before I say anything I have’nt read every comment left here. But here in australia our main sports are rugby league (not rugby union) and australian rules footbal. In both these sports (and in rugby union) our players don’t wear the excessive amounts of padding some wear shoulder pads in rugby league. Now while i’m aware that some of our players are not as big physically as say a center alot of the rugby league especially are weighing around 95-110kg (209 – 242 pounds) and are tackling people at around 5g in most cases and are able to play 80 minutes in some cases, so I was wondering why the nfl players are’nt able to do the same sort of thing. This is more of a question than a statement. And if any is interested in ever viewing rugby league at it’s best then a series of games that are played every yr called “State of Origin” is the best game to see as it showcases most of the best players in the world.

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