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League quietly shifts focus of helmet-to-helmet hits


As the NFL continues to pay close attention to illegal hits on defenseless receivers, the league quietly has shifted its focus regarding borderline calls.

Per a league source, the NFL no longer tells officials to err on the side of protecting players when assessing whether a defenseless receiver has been struck in the head or neck area, or on any part of his body with the defender’s helmet.

During Sunday’s game between the Buccaneers and the Jets, the officials flagged Tampa safety Dashon Goldson for hitting New York tight end Jeff Cumberland in a way that violates the rules.  It appeared that Goldson put his shoulder into the Cumberland’s chest.  As the league sees it, we’re told, Goldson still made contact with his helmet in the head/neck area of the defenseless receiver.

If the officials had thrown the flag without prohibited conduct occurring, they would have nevertheless received a downgrade.  Erring on the side of safety no longer applies — possibly because the goal is to avoid erring of any kind.  Instead, the league’s new focus will be aggressively enforcing the rule.

While it doesn’t mean that mistakes won’t be made by officials who are trying to get the call right in real time, it means that the officials no longer have a safety net that would encourage them to whip it out, when in doubt.

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22 Responses to “League quietly shifts focus of helmet-to-helmet hits”
  1. buccfaninhawkeyecountry says: Sep 9, 2013 1:14 AM

    Aka they’re putting flags on offensive players and pillows for everybody.

  2. aloneonrevisisland says: Sep 9, 2013 1:38 AM

    Goldson was out for blood, look at the hit to Cumberland and Kurley. Over the line, and players like Goldson SHOULD be penalized and fined. I’m all for a full contact game, but when you have some malicious intents, you need to be gone. It’s a game after all, and you’re jeopardizing someone else’s LIFE

  3. nfl4days says: Sep 9, 2013 2:01 AM

    What a joke. Can you even think about hitting a player without getting flagged?

  4. osiris33 says: Sep 9, 2013 2:03 AM

    Just what the NFL needs, more rules subject to subjective interpretation.

    PS- it was a catch. Seahawks 14, Packers 12. Get over it.

  5. thebirdofprey says: Sep 9, 2013 2:16 AM

    Not a Buc fan here but the NFL has this wrong. I can see the flag being thrown on 1 of them but that’s still borderline. But NFL coming back on review and saying both hits are illegal in their rules when he is turning his head, leading with his shoulder trying to dislodge the ball. When these guys starting hitting low and ruining careers like the Texans S possibly did to Dustin Keller maybe they will see the mess they are creating.

  6. jshawaii22 says: Sep 9, 2013 2:27 AM

    How about another angle..

    Now that the NFL has settled the Concussion lawsuit and now that the NFL knows that going forward, all active and future player claims will be handled in house, through the NFL/NLFPA Labor agreement…

    They have given the go-ahead to play football again! It sure looked better.. .well, except for that clown blondie on Green Bay. He should of been ejected.


  7. 950003cups says: Sep 9, 2013 2:58 AM

    The game is getting watered down.

  8. Iain says: Sep 9, 2013 4:08 AM

    It’s incredible how a shoulder to the chest left Cumberland needing stitches in his chin. Clearly Goldson’s helmet was nowhere near him…

  9. unislaya says: Sep 9, 2013 5:18 AM

    Letting Goldson go in FA was a great decision by the Niners. Dashon very-well cost the game to the Buc’s with his penalties.

    The Jets still suck. Sadly, we will have to hear about them more this week due to the win…

    Thanks, Schiano, for making the leagues laughing stock laugh at your stock with that sloppy, undisciplined D.

  10. jostler18 says: Sep 9, 2013 6:11 AM

    “whip it out, when in doubt”

    Kinda like when you think you might have to urinate.

  11. bloodisred says: Sep 9, 2013 6:19 AM

    This was about as clean a hit as you’ll see … football. The league is full of ish.

  12. titansbro says: Sep 9, 2013 6:31 AM

    Good play, bad call.

  13. mustbechris says: Sep 9, 2013 7:14 AM

    They don’t need to err on the side of safety anymore. The lawsuit was settled!

  14. greenmeattruck says: Sep 9, 2013 7:49 AM

    This whole “new era of the NFL” is disgusting. Hard collisions are the best part of football, and now they’re trying to take that away. That’s all I have to say about it.

  15. StottsEra says: Sep 9, 2013 8:26 AM

    “off” helmet to helmet hits?

  16. green41563 says: Sep 9, 2013 8:29 AM

    Watching the hit on tape, it appeared the he hit Cumberland in the chest. But Cumberland then went to the locker room and hat stitches put in his chin. How that happens without helmet-to-helmet contact, I don’t know.

  17. bucrightoff says: Sep 9, 2013 8:33 AM

    Clean hit. So was the one where Kerley got crushed by 3 Bucs. But thats Roger Goodells NFL, violence is not allowed. Remember in 2006 when Sheldon Brown totally jacked up Reggie Bush in the playoffs? No flag, that hit is celebrated. In todays NFL Brown would be looking at a lifetime ban.

  18. melikefootball says: Sep 9, 2013 8:38 AM

    This was very obvious in Sundays games, very inconsistent in calls of helmet hits. How is the players suppose to play a game with rules in place and not called, either call or get rid of rule.

  19. beamen321 says: Sep 9, 2013 8:48 AM

    I watched that game and the announcers (John Lynch) kept saying that it should be a legal hit. However, I thought it was obvious that the first thing to make contact was the crown of Goldson’s helmet to Cumberlands facemask. Cumberlands head snapped back on contact drawing the flag. I think this is a bad example of “erring on the side of caution”.

  20. murlikoushik says: Sep 9, 2013 10:10 AM

    I never realized Clay Matthews is a dirty player until I saw the play where he hits the QB who is clearly out of bounds. I feel the NFL must ban such players. We don’t need the crappy stuff in the NFL.

    I am thrilled that the Pack had its butt kicked. Their defense sucks. And A-Rod is as much of a blot to football as his namesake in baseball.

  21. mljohns says: Sep 9, 2013 12:55 PM

    It might mean slowing down the game a little more, but Helmet to Helmet hits need to be reviewable. If a call like that is going to dramatically affect the outcome of an important game, they need to go under the hood and make sure it was a clear violation of the rule.

  22. jr507 says: Sep 9, 2013 1:08 PM

    So according to Tampa fans if you tackle someone in the chest, the person being tackled has their head snap back, and begins bleeding from the face.

    No wonder the locker room breeds MRSA with such medical geniuses in the area.

    Goldson is a habitual cheap-shot artist (SF let him go because he can’t cover – he’s a glorified Roy Williams – who can only play the run and generally costs his team 30 yds in penalties a game) so let’s not pretend this is a league vendetta/bias.

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