NFL passes rule against lowering head to initiate contact with helmet

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The NFL has made a major rule change aimed at player safety, banning all plays on which a player lowers his head to initiate contact with his helmet.

“It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent,” the new rule says, according to the NFL. “The player may be disqualified. Applies to any player anywhere on the field.”

Rich McKay, chair of the league’s Competition Committee, said today that the rule change is a big one that will outlaw a technique that we’ve previously seen often in the game of football.

“This is a pretty significant change,” McKay said. “We felt it was time for a change of this magnitude.”

McKay said the NFL’s research has found that a large number of concussions happen on plays when a player lowers his head, and that banning such techniques will make the game safer.

Until we see the precise wording of the rule, and how strictly the officials enforce it, it’s hard to say how big an impact this change will have. But with the NFL now imposing a 15-yard penalty for a technique that we’ve previously seen often in football, this sounds like it’s going to have a major impact on the sport.

89 responses to “NFL passes rule against lowering head to initiate contact with helmet

  1. In the years last 10 years has there been a major tackling rule change that wasn’t instigated because of a Pittsburgh Steeler play?

  2. I just had this radical idea: how bout the guys that make changes to how the game is played consist of guys that actually played the game? We’re gonna get at least 20 of these penalties every single game man…

  3. So a running back trying to get a yard on 4th and 1 has to keep his head up? Some of my favorite running backs best move was putting their head down and trucking somebody for a few extra yards…Marion Butts, Christian Okoye, Natrone Means, Kevin Mack, Leroy Hoard…The NFL is now just a few more rule changes from being completely unwatchable….

  4. glenuendo says:
    March 27, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    OK… Is this for defenders only or offensive players also? I’m curious about that.

    “Applies to any player anywhere on the field.” I think that’s pretty clear.

  5. NFL fans: All of these new player safety rules are pussifying the NFL!

    Also NFL fans: I won’t watch the NFL till the players stop kneeling during the National Anthem because they upset me!

  6. Nowhere in this article does it mention if this is offensive based or defensive based……are we to call the men who play football just ‘players’ or ‘participants’ now and eliminate gender?

  7. Is this the shark? Is the NFL officially jumping it with this latest rule change?

    How many years are we from breaking out flags and dropping the pads?

  8. dliriusokc says:
    March 27, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Gronk on Tredavious White?
    ——————-

    Did Gronk lower his head?

  9. WTF is an runner to do, stand up straight and let a defender run right through their solar plexus?

    I am all for safety, especially when it comes to the head, but a runner, especially in the open field, has to protect himself.

    Hopefully a common sense and discretion is used here (not the league’s strong suit).

    Maybe you cannot use your head as a battering ram like Earl Campbell or Walter Payton but if a runner is protecting himself I would hope a flag is not thrown!

    Look at Gronkowski: this guy is a physical freak. Not many athletes as big and fast as him but he takes ungodly shots to the lower body, not cheap shots, but it is too hard to take him down by tackling him up high and now he cannot lower his head gear and if he makes contact w/his helmet he gets flagged 15 yards?

  10. glenuendo says:
    March 27, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    OK… Is this for defenders only or offensive players also? I’m curious about that.
    ——————–

    “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent,” the new rule says, according to the NFL. “The player may be disqualified. Applies to any player anywhere on the field.

  11. Thank god my Eagles finally got a super bowl win, who would have guessed it would happen at the end of the last season where the NFL still somewhat resembled football?

    I can’t disagree with the spirit of this rule, but if it is enforced anywhere close to the way this piece describes it, the NFL won’t have to worry about ratings dropping or lawsuits from retired players anymore. They are making it impossible for the players to play football, so soon there won’t be players to worry about getting sued by, and there won’t be games to worry about ratings dropping.

    Awful rule

  12. Lowering the head is pretty much a necessary side effect to lowering the shoulder to drive a hit or drive the ball forward. Doesn’t mean the head needs to make contact. Seems like way too much subjectivity to be handing the refs that already struggle to make the obvious calls correctly

  13. “hanklin89 says:
    March 27, 2018 at 4:48 pm
    NFL fans: All of these new player safety rules are pussifying the NFL!

    Also NFL fans: I won’t watch the NFL till the players stop kneeling during the National Anthem because they upset me!”

    and yet here you are, an NFL fan

  14. So basically, another rule that ends football as we know it.

    If a receiver is caught by his legs and lunges forward head first, is this now illegal if his head hits another defender?

    If a running back dives over the pile for a TD or first down head first, is this now a penalty if his head hits a defender?

    This rule changes do NOTHING except make it impossible for viewers to watch a game.
    More subjective flags will be thrown by a ref on one player who goes head first but a different ref lets it go.

  15. The Steelers can’t get a new defensive scheme worked out, they might have to forfeit the season.

  16. Guys I have figured it out, someone affiliated with Spring League, XFL, AFL, and whatever other upstart leagues there are somehow snuck this rule in. now they will be the only sources of anything even close to resembling football.

    just give all the players playstation controllers and copies of madden to play against each other with, that will look more like real football

  17. I’m old enough to remember when they taught people to tackle by engaging with the shoulder and wrapping up. Now that ESPN is out they are more concerned with making a big hit and ending up on the highlights instead of actually tackling the person. How many missed tackles do you see in the NFL where the guy just tried to knock him down instead of wrapping up with his arms–a great majority. That’s why there are so many head and neck injuries. Players complain about CTE and concussions yet continue to lead with the head. Maybe this rule will lead to more people wrapping up and tackling the way they should be.

  18. This is a slippery slope. Pretty soon, the game will be much safer and we’ll all have no problem letting our children play it!

    For real though, isn’t this how we were all taught to hit and tackle? Keep your head up and look at what you’re hitting. What’s the big deal?

  19. “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent”…. people are going to cry no matter what the new rule is. I think its a good rule and if you read it you see that they aren’t preventing contact with your head, just people trying to use their head to hit their opponent. If you really think we can’t tell who’s trying to attack with their helmet then your just using this push your “flag football” narrative. The biggest hits are and always were with the shoulder and body. Big helmet hits were always cheap shots or accidents.

  20. Just another nail in the lid of the NFL coffin. A lot of people making a lot of rules that never played a down of pro ball. This rule can’t even be officiated unless NY is going to do a replay of every down and make the remote call from there. Someone tell me how you lower a shoulder without the head following suit. Now we’ll have a gaggle of broken necks.

  21. “I just had this radical idea: how bout the guys that make changes to how the game is played consist of guys that actually played the game? We’re gonna get at least 20 of these penalties every single game man…”

    Aren’t the “guys that actually played” the reason for such rule changes.

  22. The key part of the rule is the “to initiate contact with his helmet”. Ever since I started playing football in peewee leagues and up I was always told never to lead with your head. My peewee coach would make use run laps if we did. You always keep your head up! That was for both offense and defense.

    A RB with true technique isn’t lowering his head, he’s actually lowring his shoulder to lay the “BOOM”. The head obviously comes down with your shoulders. You can’t prevent that. What you can do you tilt your head back so that you aren’t leading your crown. If done correctly there shouldn’t be many fouls.

    On defense this is even more true because you’re taught that you can’t hit what you can’t see. If you have any doubts replay the last few seconds of the Saints vs Vikings playoff game and you understand why you should always keep your head up when tackling. It’s more than just safety on the defensive side. With that said if you tackle a 200LB plus man that running 4.4 speeds it’s an easy way to find your on the injury report.

    The only thing I don’t like about the rule is that the Refs will have to make judgement calls on this and will have to do it a full speed with bodies flying around. There’s just too many factors to determine at that speed. Even if you let them replay it I feel every team will challenge it and it’ll just prolong an already long game.

  23. Looks like Mark Cuban is on the way to being right Pigs get fat Hogs get slaughtered. RIP American Football. In 30 years soccer (basketball too) will be more of a contact sport than American Football. Sad day.

  24. Penalties will only be given to defenders so that the league can continue to manipulate games and increase fantasy participation.

  25. “the NFL’s research has found that a large number of concussions happen on plays when a player lowers his head…..” Wow, who could have guessed the research would reveal something so subtle and easy to remedy?

    Nearly all concussions happen on plays after the ball is snapped. See where we’re going?

    Oh yeah, right. A lot of concussions happen on kickoffs, not after a snap. My bad.

  26. Maybe the NFL should tell companies to stop making the shoulder pads so small. Look back at tape from the 80’s 90’s where the shoulderpads were huge and actually gave some cushion to the impact. You have to have some area that you can use to actually TACKLE someone!

  27. All of the concussion talk will be moot soon. Studies are showing damage occurs even when players don’t get them.

    This is only the beginning, unfortunately.

  28. The NFL needs to stop giving in to the media. Boxers get punched in the head over (that’s the whole purpose of boxing) and over with no helmet and no one is taking shots at them. If certain types of people want a different sport, let them do their own thing and let us have football!

  29. malcolm jenkins’s cheap shot on brandin cooks in the super bowl?

    a little tiring seeing teams dole out cheapshots against the pats, with
    no one saying anything

    if cte is such a fear, why is targeting the head at any time allowed, when completely unnecessary?

  30. I dont get the fans who are cavalier about other people’s brain injuries. That said, while well intentioned, this will be a tough rule as it will take some time before players learn how to hit this way. Football is at its core, a violent game of intimidation, speed and power (part of why we love it) but these guys have muscle memory and have been playing football this way for decades.

  31. It’s going to be a tough rule to enforce, but more than that, if the league is serious about protecting the players, the head butts after a TD or sack, need to go. It makes no sense to allow that, and then throw a flag during a play. Just my opinion.

  32. Boy, this has “Throw a game any which way” written all over it. Could you imagine? A RB takes it back 80 yards to the house, but it’s called back, because for a split second he put his head down to get through the line? Or what about when a defensive end “Squares up” for a sack/tackle? In the heat of the moment, could you see that being called a foul?

    I like the idea above–it should be worded “Body should not be launched like a missile at a defender.”

  33. I think we can all agree we are glad Jeff Triplette is no longer around. Can you imagine him trying to explain this penalty?

  34. So when a defender lowers his head to initiate contact with his shoulder pad (which is impossible to do with your head up) and the other player changes direction, was it to “initiate and make contact with his helmet”?

  35. Its funny to how many people failed to read the “Until we see the precise wording of the rule” part. Everyone is all, what if this? What if that? We dont have enough information. Just. Stop. Overreacting.

  36. If this foul is called honestly, we’ll see literally dozens of flags per game, if not more. And what will happen when the runner lowers his head and the defender does likewise? Offsetting penalties?

  37. Its called targeting, and players should be ejected on the spot.

    College ball gets it.

  38. But the defensive pass interference rule is just too perfect to change. When you think the leauge office be any dumber they pull this out the hat a real hold my beer moment

  39. I’m all for the intent of this rule. However, too often a player lowers to hit with the shoulder and the other player moves, which makes it look like the defender intended to lead with his head. An awful lot of guys with no ill intent are going to get flagged for this.

  40. People will call the NFL soft but I remember in Pop Warner the very first thing they teach you is to get lower than the other guy, keep your head up and run through the other players numbers.

  41. This doesn’t make the NFL worse. Some of the best hits I’ve seen have been because of great technique and keeping your head up. Plus the Saints vs Vikings playoff game last year is a great example of why it’s also a good thing to keep your head up.

  42. peytonwantsaflag says:

    In the years last 10 years has there been a major tackling rule change that wasn’t instigated because of a Pittsburgh Steeler play?

    ————————————————-
    Instead of complaining about the Steelers, maybe it’s time to look at colleges. Urban Meyer did nothing to correct Tebow’s poor throwing motion and nothing to correct Shazier’s tendency to lead with his head. By the time these players reach the pros, the way they move is instinctual and virtually impossible to change. The NCAA is the training ground for these players. Some coaches try to instill good habits; others are just content to win at any cost.

  43. how will it affect the power backs who just lower their heads and charge into the pile or opponent trying to tackle him

  44. I am 68 years old. But, now I can play in the NFL. I completely understand the problem with injuries and CTE, but if they are making this product(Nfl games) safe for old folks and youngsters then I have watched my last game.
    Bye NFL, its been nice knowing ya.
    Signed
    Ex-NFL fan. PS My wife loves it.

  45. There is only one right way to institute this rule. Show picture examples of 200 hits and mark which ones are a violation, which ones are close, and which ones are clean.

    Players and coaches need guidance and refs need clear definitions and examples because the last thing anyone wants is more subjective calls in games where they are betting real money on the outcomes.

  46. jackedupboonie says:

    March 27, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Nowhere in this article does it mention if this is offensive based or defensive based……are we to call the men who play football just ‘players’ or ‘participants’ now and eliminate gender?

    =======================================
    Jesus Joseph and Mary, READ IT AGAIN!!!

  47. My god, people… you can LOWER YOUR UPPER BODY while FACING FORWARD. The Offensive line does it EVERY PLAY. Don’t lead with the crown of the helmet, keep the facemask forward, and they’ll be FINE.

  48. They’ll have to get rid of those extended neck pieces that some of the players wear, can’t keep your head up with those things on.

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