League hopes to change rules to make Samuel’s hit on Rice illegal

On Friday, the league acknowledged that Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel would not be fined for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Vikings receiver Sidney Rice that, according to Rice, knocked him out.

We surmised that the decision arose either from the fact that Rice had fully completed the catch and Samuel hadn’t launched with his head, or from the reality that helmet-to-helmet contact was unavoidable.  (The video shows that Rice had dipped his helmet before impact.)

NFL spokesman Randall Liu has supplied us with the answer.

“Because the receiver had completed the catch with two feet down and possession of the ball, he had protection from a hit to the head only from a defender who launches,” Liu said.  “Samuel did not ‘launch’ as defined by our current rules because the ball of his right foot was on the ground when contact with the receiver was made.  Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8(h) Note states:  ‘Launching is defined as springing forward and upward by a player who leaves his feet to make contact on the receiver.’  [NFL executive V.P. of football operations] Ray Anderson confirmed that the NFL Competition Committee will review the rule and the definition of ‘launch’ in the off-season with the anticipation that this type of action will be a foul in future seasons.”

Currently, the rules prohibit defenders from hitting a defenseless receiver in the head or neck, or with the helmet on any part of the defenseless receiver’s body.  After the receiver is no longer defenseless, helmet-to-helmet contact is permissible absent a “launch.”

The takeaway point for the league’s players is that, in the future, defenseless receivers may get even greater protection, despite the fact that they have completed the catch and are in a position to defend themselves against a big hit.

The takeaway point for the Eagles is that a flag was thrown on a play that, under current rules, didn’t justify a flag.  And so with the Vikings leading 10-7, they ended up with first and goal after the half-the-distance penalty, and the Vikings stretched the margin to 17-7.

31 responses to “League hopes to change rules to make Samuel’s hit on Rice illegal

  1. There has to be some exception made for when a defender drops his helmet like Rice did. If not you will get guys who do that intentionally all the time just to draw the flag, irregardless of the risk to their own health for doing so.

  2. I have a better idea lets cut to the chase and start playing flag football in the NFL,what makes the NFL the most popular pro sport is the hitting….America loves violence period,it sells.Its possibly the league trying to get 2 extra games out of the players,they don’t care about the NFL’S players its about the money as usual.

  3. More lawyers making inane, undecipherable rules taht can only be interpreted by other lawyers….How does the hit by Samuel not warrant a fine—because it was flagged???

  4. First of all, the rule needs to be rewritten anyway because as written, the definition of launch involves leaving a bloody mess on the field if anyone were to actually do it.

    Second, any revision must take into account the receiver’s actions. If all responsibility is put on the defender, the receiver will just lower his head every time in the hopes of getting the penalty called. The receiver will not care about the possibility of concussions. If it is truly about player safety, make both players responsible for how the hit happens.

  5. Wouldn’t that make Harrison’s hit on Massaquoi legal then?? He caught the ball got his feet down and lowered himself preparing for the hit, causing the helmet to helmet…..

  6. “The takeaway point for the league’s players is that, in the future, defenseless receivers may get even greater protection, despite the fact that they have completed the catch and are in a position to defend themselves against a big hit.”

    I hope one of us is still drunk, because this is the stupidest thing I’ve heard so far this year.

    “defenseless receivers” that “are in a position to defend themselves” ?

  7. Just make the league two hand touch already FFS. Oh wait. Suh got fined for pushing down Cutler when he was a runner. I guess it will have to be flag football.

  8. It’s really simple here, folks….REMOVE THE FACEMASK!!! Yes those little bars that form a protective cage around the face….physically remove it from helmets. Just like 50 years ago! If players wish to launch themselves like torpedos with no protective “face cage”, be mu guest!!
    Once they remove the face cage, players will actually learn how to ARM TACKLE once again.

  9. It was a pretty vicious shot from a repeat offender and it knocked Rice out and out of the game. Sure after they get it 100 times in slow motion they can make more comments about it. But at the time it certainly seemed like a justified penalty and was a bigger shot to the head than most plays that bring that flag.

    With all that said, the way the play unfolded I don’t think it was really Samuel’s fault. He was covering one guy, the ball was thrown to another, and he turned and Rice was coming right to him and he put his head down. Not much he could do to avoid it. He hadn’t lined him up from 10 feet away or anything. It just happened.

  10. The NFL rule book defines the following two actions as warranting a 15 yard penalty:

    *A tackler using his helmet to butt, spear, or ram an opponent.
    *Any player who uses the top of his helmet unnecessarily.

    Samuel, it seems to me, did both on the most recent hit on Rice and on the earlier hit on Hagan, regardless of whether he “launched” himself at the receiver or the receiver was making a “football move”.

    I always thought, and was taught, that using the top of your helmet on an opposing player was spearing and that intent or location of the hit had no impact on the determination of the penalty. Perhaps all the NFL should do is take the word “unnecessarily” out of the “Any player who uses the top of his helmet” descriptor as one thing a player can do is keep their head up.

  11. Maybe we should start fining ballcarriers for ducking their heads. They’re the ones initiating contact, after all.

    Fight idiocy with idiocy, I say…

  12. I’m all for player safety and blatant helmet to helmet hits should be penalized and fined.

    But when will the NFL realize that players aren’t turtles…their helmets are going to hit people.

  13. Keep changing the rules in favor of the offense and before long 42-37 games will be commonplace in the NFL. It will become a situation where the only time there is an incomplete pass is either when the quarterback misfires or the receiver flat out drops the ball. Actual pass defense will become a thing of the past.

  14. “…After the receiver is no longer defenseless, helmet-to-helmet contact is permissible absent a ‘launch.'”

    That’s not even close to true, and you know it. Explain then, please, why Harrison was fined on Massaquoi. He did not launch, Massaquoi had clear possession of the ball.

  15. I think the league should go back and take Butkus, Night train Lane, Sam Huff, Nitchske, Deacon Jones, Reggie White, and all the other top 100 defensive players off their list and out of the Hall of Fame. I mean these players would be brought up on criminal charges by the current commish. Whenever you have lawyers running something they know nothing about, they tend to ruin it.

  16. There is a quick fix for this….all the league has to do is make a rule that a defender has to “make a reasonable attempt to wrap an offensive ball carrier up with the use of the defender’s arms”. This will limit the opportunities for a defender to lower a shoulder and “hit” a player instead of “tackle” a player.

  17. “…or from the reality that helmet-to-helmet contact was unavoidable. (The video shows that Rice had dipped his helmet before impact.)”

    That is the EXACT same reason given as to why Jame Harrison’s hit on Massaquoi shouldn’t have been illegal.

  18. My issue isn’t with whether it was an illegal/legal hit and whether Samuel should be fined or not……in fact, I believe the NFL should take the skirts off the players and let them play the game the way it was meant to be played. I can’t believe how subjective and selective the NFL is with which teams get away with things and which teams don’t. If this were the Steelers or some other hard hitting defense, there would’ve been a fine. If Sid Rice played for the Pats, Colts, Packers or some other “GODell favorite team”, there would’ve been a fine. The fact of the matter in this case is that Samuel DID lead with his helmet which in itself is suppose to be illegal under the current “rules”. To take the bias and prejudice out of the decision making process then I agree with other posters, take the damn face mask off the helmets and you won’t see any player run the risk of messing up their “pretty faces” by leading with their helmets. The most troubling aspect of all this is that 10-15 years ago football was had very few issues but now it’s a bunch of sissie rules. can’t hit qb above the shoulders or below the waist, in the grasp, tuck rule, instant replay but still can’t get the calls right, db’s can’t touch a wr until after he catches the ball, etc. etc. ………it’s gone from real football to real “entertainment”.

  19. While I like high scoring games, this is essentially making it so that defenses can’t do anything other than tackle a player. The point is that they don’t want a reception. And until defenders arms get so crazy long and so crazy strong so they can rip the ball away from the complete other side of the player, the only way they can get a ball jarred is via a hit.

    I want players to be safe, but it seems like all of the new rules benefit the offense only. But, at the same time, they chose this profession. They knew the risks going in. If they don’t want to get hit, they could have gone to school for something else.

  20. goodell thanks for making it clear that you no longer want real football fans to watch this game. next year i can concentrate on fantasy football and not have to watch the pussification of the game any longer. i only need to see stats of the players and devote my sundays to something better! thanks again, an ex-viewer!

  21. Give me a break. I just watched that video 10 times and Samuels CLEARLY used his helmet as a battering ram. He tucks his arms in, where if he was trying to tackle he’d open them up to wrap up Rice for a tackle. The guy has a track record. If Rice never lowered his head he would have had a helmet hit him smack in the chin and probably getting stitches. If your gong to make rules follow them.

  22. As a big fan of football I have to shake my head on what this league wants to fine or not. They made a whole lot of noise in week six and fined the next few weeks with aission to make players pay for playing the game. Now a guy hits a guy just as many got 50 -90k and no fine. They send such a mixed message it makes you not want to support this league.. baseball as well as basketball paid dearly fro the same kink of messages sent by there league offices. Maybe the owners and players union should consider a replacement.

  23. I am not a fan of either team.

    From the video, Samuel would have hit him with the pads had Rice not lowered HIS helmet. Referee: “Personal foul: Offensive helmet-to-helmet..15 yards, first and 25.”

    This whole rule is stupid when it can’t be avoided by the defender.

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