No one knows how strictly the NFL will enforce the new helmet rule

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The NFL banned lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet on Tuesday, a surprising rule change that came with no advance notice to the public and resulted in fans everywhere wondering what, exactly, the new rule means.

In fact, no one seems to know for sure: Unlike the new catch rule, which the NFL rolled out with a great deal of discussion and specific examples of plays that will be officiated differently going forward, the new helmet rule was announced without anyone outside the NFL knowing it was coming.

Which means that we have no idea just how big a change this is. Under the broadest possible interpretation, “Lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet” would seem to happen on virtually every play: What is a lineman doing when he comes out of a three-point stance? What is a quarterback doing when he lunges forward on a quarterback sneak? What are a running back and a linebacker doing when they collide in the open field? Those things could all be interpreted as lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet. If the NFL is going to tell the officials to flag this new penalty under the strictest interpretation possible, then the sport we’re going to see in 2018 will barely resemble the sport of football we’ve been watching our entire lives.

On the other hand, this might turn out to be like the rule change from 2013, when the league put restrictions on ball carriers lowering the crowns of their helmets into tacklers. At the time the rule passed, there were warnings that the sport of football would never be the same. (Just read PFT’s comments that day.) As it turned out, the rule barely registered because it was so rarely enforced: The league told the officials only to flag the most flagrant, obvious examples of players using their helmets as weapons.

So will the league similarly instruct the officials on this new rule? Or is this a change that could result in several 15-yard penalties every game, and players dramatically changing the way they run, block and tackle to avoid getting penalized? Right now, we just don’t know. We may not know until the season starts.

34 responses to “No one knows how strictly the NFL will enforce the new helmet rule

  1. Call it the Patriots Rule. It’s just an obscure rule on the books, which will be only used when the Patriots need help getting into or advancing in the playoffs.

  2. If they don’t make an effort to call it whenever it happens ultimately the outcome of some games will be in the hands of the officials and not the players. If there is a rule that doesn’t deserve to be enforced we shouldn’t have the rule. It sounds to me like it is not fully flushed out yet and needs some further clarification.

  3. A lot of bad happens when the defensive player tries to “blow up” a receiver. He’s trying to make him hurt and think twice about coming back, we all know that. Perhaps they shouldn’t come flying in at 100 mph and they could lesson the damage, or even avoid a dangerous impact.

  4. What is going to happen when the person with the ball lowers his head and the defender aims to hit him low but it ends up helmet to helmet? they need to roll out clean and defined examples or the games now will last 4 hours and some change with constant reviews. Pretty soon it seems every play will be reviewed.

  5. The sky isn’t falling. Any player who uses the crown of his helmet to tackle is a danger to himself and others. Runners shouldn’t be dropping their head into oncoming contact, either.

    It will be fine – guys just need to stop being lazy about how they tackle.

  6. I think they’ll be pretty strict with it. Remember a few years ago when Dan Quinn and the Seahawks admitted they break the rules on every play by holding in the secondary and daring the refs to call it, the league got more strict on that and the Seahawks led the league in holding penalties and haven’t won anything since. And, well…. Look at them now.

  7. As I mentioned in the earlier thread.

    Does this mean that receivers who have drawn helmet to helmet penalties because they lowered their head right before a defender hit them will now be penalized instead? Will both players now be penalized?

    This is a bad rule that will lead to inconsistent calls.

  8. This new rule seems like the 2nd half of the 2013 rule, the part where everyone said it will change the game. might as well just play hard two hand touch now

    “On the other hand, this might turn out to be like the rule change from 2013, when the league put restrictions on ball carriers lowering the crowns of their helmets into tacklers. At the time the rule passed, there were warnings that the sport of football would never be the same. (Just read PFT’s comments that day.) As it turned out, the rule barely registered because it was so rarely enforced: The league told the officials only to flag the most flagrant, obvious examples of players using their helmets as weapons.”

  9. Certain tacklers lower their head, because they want to use the helmet to “spear” the ball carrier. It’s dangerous for the ball carrier (concussions) and the tackler (neck injuries). It might be difficult to enforce, but if the new rule eliminates even 30 % of these “spearing” hits, that will be a win for everyone.

  10. Great….another subjective area for which we will expect the refs to make calls…. What could go wrong?

    Why does the NFL feel some kind of need to change or add rules every season? Why can’t they simply go from one season to the next and leave the game alone?

  11. Appears to be another CYA rule for the league like the dumb one-shell/helmet rule. Player safety is our major concern. Uh, right.

  12. Lunchbox says:
    March 28, 2018 at 11:18 am
    a lot…5-6 times a game

    —————————–
    I think you meant to say 5-6 times per quarter.

  13. A dream scenario would be a new league starting up and my team joining that League cuz the NFL’s going down the tubes!

  14. mark0226 says:
    March 28, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Call it the Patriots Rule. It’s just an obscure rule on the books, which will be only used when the Patriots need help getting into or advancing in the playoffs.
    ————————-

    The tuck rule will never die with you bozos, will it?

  15. Just take helmets and shoulder pads off and call it rugby….they are ruining American football, simply because of the long term head trauma. Well guess what, do professional boxers know the risks of their sport…yes, should professional football players know and choose to accept the risks of their sport…. yes!

  16. It sounds like it’s going to be a very subjective rule, because you can’t throw a flag every time someone leads with the helmet. Everyone would be forced to run upright and you’d never get yards after contact

  17. mmack66 says:
    March 28, 2018 at 12:00 pm
    mark0226 says:
    March 28, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Call it the Patriots Rule. It’s just an obscure rule on the books, which will be only used when the Patriots need help getting into or advancing in the playoffs.
    ————————-

    The tuck rule will never die with you bozos, will it?
    ____________________________
    Not just the tuck rule but the other 30 times penalties have been used to help the patriots win games.

  18. You won’t have to worry about it long, with all the flags they’ll be throwing in the first quarter the games will never get to the second.

  19. mark0226 says:
    March 28, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Call it the Patriots Rule. It’s just an obscure rule on the books, which will be only used when the Patriots need help getting into or advancing in the playoffs.

    ………………………………………

    Speechless! Funny as hell and painfully true. You win best comment hands down!

  20. All this hysteria should calm down. It just means you can’t lead with your helmet to make a tackle. You can’t spear anybody. You just have to use your shoulder to hit the ball carrier. It should be pretty clear to interpret. That said, NFL officials will continue to be morons.

  21. Call it the Patriots Rule. It’s just an obscure rule on the books, which will be only used when the Patriots need help getting into or advancing in the playoffs.
    ————————-

    The tuck rule will never die with you bozos, will it?
    __________

    If you think the tuck rule was the only example of the Pats getting favorable calls to win games then you need to re-evaluate who the bozo is. You don’t have to look any further back than this past AFC championship game to find more examples.

  22. So this adds to craziness of the league and it’s officials. Your going to add more bean counters to watch the screens in the NY command center to help figure out ejections. Now you add another rule that simply can’t be enforced. The refs have enough on there hands trying to get the calls correct and listening to big brother in NY.

    There is a clear difference between lowering your head with intent to spear vs lowering your head to prepare for impact. This will clearly add to more lower body injuries. Classic senario in pass pro. If a LB is coming on A gap blitz and the RB is responsible for picking him up. Should he just keep his head up and just get ran over or lower his head keeping his eyes up to see the blocker and deliver the blow or just cut him. You can still maintain proper technique lowering your head but keeping your eyes up to see what’s in front of you. Why do all of that when you have made cutting a easier option.

  23. This is a terrible move. It will make football less enjoyable if it’s enforced to a T. Or if it’s subjectively enforced it will dictate how some games end in the hands of the officials.

  24. How do you make a dive tackle without your head being parallel to the ground-
    so the tackler diving must keep his body flat, his head up like a pez machine and make sure the face mask hits the leg(s) he is tackling ?

  25. The NFL has lost their minds on common sense. It should be a defensive call only because the intent of the defense is to create a turn over or get a player down to prevent any advancement of the football. Even the comments on here are talking about a WR going up to make a catch getting flagged. Are you serious?? Common sense must be a thing of the 1990s. I just haven’t seen any being displayed in the past 18 years.

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