Players alone can’t be responsible for using helmets as weapons

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Consistently lost in the ongoing efforts of the NFL to discipline players who engage in unsafe actions is the role of their coaches and teams on such behavior. Now, with the NFL implementing out of the blue a rule that prohibits players from using their helmets to initiate contact, fixing the situation can’t be something that falls only on players.

NFL Players Association president Eric Winston made this point in reaction to the new rule, saying on Twitter: “The league will continue to pass rules and fine players more with the hope that things will change, but meaningful change will happen only when everyone — players, coaches, owners — share responsibility in making the game as safe as possible.”

After the NFL first decided, nearly eight years ago, to emphasize the prohibition against hits on defenseless players, coaches periodically praised (privately) hits that the NFL deemed to be illegal. With the players, and only the players, paying the price for these hits, the coaches face no consequence (other than not having the player available to play, if ejected or suspended).

Safety rules need to compel teams and coaches to insist on safe practices of every type. This new rule, which is sufficiently vague to potentially result in a broad application aimed at further getting the head out of the game, won’t be as successful as it could be if the coaches who aren’t successfully coaching these unsafe tactics out of the game suffer no consequences for failure to comply.

So Winston is right. Making the game safer requires a much more comprehensive approach than issuing a list of “thou shalt nots” to players. Teams, coaches, and ultimately owners need to be given a real incentive to comply — and/or a real disincentive for not complying. Without that, players who know where and how their bread gets buttered could end up getting mixed signals from their coaches and from the league, and ultimately choosing to do what will win the approval of their coaches.

16 responses to “Players alone can’t be responsible for using helmets as weapons

  1. Of course only players are held accountable when a hit on a defenseless player takes place. They are the ones committing the action. The idea that coaches and owners somehow bare responsibility is beyond reason.

  2. Does the prohibition of players from using their helmets to initiate contact include RBs? Because if it doesn’t, this sounds like the blurring of the catch rule all over again.

  3. Often the flag should be thrown against the QB. Like all those ambulance balls Peyton threw to Welker.

  4. .
    SO… does this mean we can start fining and or flagging the player with the ball who by the flow of the game at the last second change course or direction which causes them to get hit illegally?
    I mean why are we flagging players that play at game speeds who hit these ball carriers that do not maintain their intended directions?
    How about a rule for when a defender has this happen to them and they get flagged but the NFL reviews the film and sees it was not their fault, that the nfl then fines the ball carrier?
    I mean that makes total sense… just as much sense as all these other rules

  5. What did the league do when Jarvis Landry took a career ending helmet to helmet cheap shot on Aaron Williams away from the play ? Nothing. There has to be significant repercussions if the league wants to stop these incidents, otherwise it is just empty rhetoric.

  6. Young players will still lead with their head because they want to make impact plays to secure a job and older players won’t fear the fine. I think there has to be suspension, one game or more, for any offense.

  7. therealraider says:
    March 27, 2018 at 10:07 pm
    Of course only players are held accountable when a hit on a defenseless player takes place. They are the ones committing the action. The idea that coaches and owners somehow bare responsibility is beyond reason.

    The owners – No.
    But the coach that keeps telling his safety or LB to put his face between the guys number, Yes. If they are teaching & preaching that technique to lead with the head/helmet, the player has to be able to say “I am doing what I am told/coached” & the coach should be held accountable somehow.

  8. therealraider says:
    March 27, 2018 at 10:07 pm
    Of course only players are held accountable when a hit on a defenseless player takes place. They are the ones committing the action. The idea that coaches and owners somehow bare responsibility is beyond reason.

    This rule isn’t about hitting a defenseless player, it is about leading with the helmet (used to be called spearing) such as in Ryan Shazier’s tackle that nearly ruined his life. Defenders initiate contact for one of two reasons, to separate ball from runner(like Shazier) or to injure (like Travethan’s hit on Adams). Coaches teach and expect their defenders to get turnovers. Players are praised by coaches and media for breaking up plays by any means necessary, so yes, coaches need to stop encouraging spearing.

    I am not for overuse of this sort of thing but if players won’t adjust their behavior, maybe the league has to do it for them. I’m hoping they don’t go after hard hits where unavoidable head collisions occur. A player moving at full speed and hitting shoulder to shoulder is inevitably going to make head contact (Jenkins hit on Cooks), but turning yourself into a missle has to be removed from the game.

  9. The NFL continues to shift the focus onto the players conduct while ignoring the safety quality of the NFL approved helmets.

    The Pro Cap was used by NFL players whose careers were at risk due to frequent concussions. Mark Kelso is but one example of a player who extended his career by several years using a Pro Cap.

    For those who are not old enough to remember when the NFL allowed players to use the Pro Cap or specifically what a Pro Cap was, let me describe it. It was a soft shell of padding approx 3/4″ thick that fit on the outside of your helmet.

    Time for the NFL to realize, you can only put so much padding on the inside of a helmet and once that approach has been used to the max…you have to look elsewhere to add padding, IF THEY WANT TO IMPROVE THE SAFETY BENEFIT OF THE HELMET.

    Instead of looking at adding a layer of padding to the outside of the present helmets, making them much safer…the NFL would rather change the game and put the responsibility for helmet safety onto the players, rather than improve the helmets.

    I’m sorry folks, but that makes no sense at all…especially when the NFL has the concussion information from those NFL players who have already used helmets (for years) with padding on the outside (and they worked).

    Something smells!

    Many have suggested that Riddell, the NFL’s authorized helmet for years and the NFL, have quashed the idea of helmets with padding on the outside. Don’t take my word for it, simply type into your search…NFL Accused of Quashing Concussion-Preventing Helmets…and read, educate yourself.

    The NFL might be guilty of playing a bit of “politics” with the issue of adding padding to the outside of helmets…but common sense tells me, you can only put so much padding on the inside of a football helmet and once you have reached the max padding on the inside, IF YOU REALLY WANT TO MAKE HELMETS SAFER…the NFL needs to adjust their thinking, OUT OF THE BOX.

    Time for the NFL and Roger Goodell to admit, Bert Straus had a good idea, adding padding to the outside of helmets.

  10. So we are our brothers keeper?
    If a player commits a foul, then its everyone elses fault?
    Bad idea.

    Coach the players, and a 15 yard PF 1st down is a big penalty.
    One of those can convert a 3 and out into a new set of downs that results in a TD.
    You commit a PF against a good team and you can easily be handing them 7 points, and that can cost the game.

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