Bernard Pollard: Refs should use replay on helmet-to-helmet hits


Ravens safety Bernard Pollard was flagged on Sunday for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Colts receiver Reggie Wayne. He wishes Ravens coach John Harbaugh could have thrown a flag of his own on that penalty.

Pollard says the NFL should add helmet-to-helmet hits to the list of calls that the referee can review on instant replay, arguing that it happens so quickly in the moment that there’s no way for the officials to be sure they got the call right without slowing it down and getting a closer look.

“They [replay] touchdowns, fumbles, turnovers, all this other stuff,” Pollard told the Baltimore Sun. “They need to have somebody up there to say, ‘No, the hit was legal, the guy tried to dodge him, but the [receiver] ducked his head.’ We make a lot of money. I’m talking about the NFL. Why can’t we can’t do that?

On the play for which Pollard was flagged, a replay review wouldn’t have negated the penalty: Pollard’s helmet did make contact with Wayne’s helmet at a point when Wayne was considered to be in a defenseless posture, and that makes it a penalty. But Pollard does make an interesting point: The league office uses replay review on helmet-to-helmet hits to determine when to fine players. So why not use replays during the games to make sure the calls are correct?

PFT Planet, tell us what you think.

78 responses to “Bernard Pollard: Refs should use replay on helmet-to-helmet hits

  1. “So why not use replays during the games to make sure the calls are correct?”

    Because pretty soon NFL games will be as long as MLB games. You can’t review EVERYTHING.

  2. This is starting to get annoying, everytime the refs see a big hit they throw a flag even if it’s a clean one. They should never throw a flag unless it’s a clear helmet to helmet. But if you aren’t sure don’t throw any flags go to the replay and make a decision from there.

  3. Why even have refs? Just run the play, and check the replay to see if there were any penalties

    Why not, apparently, we’re shooting for 6 hour football games

  4. Yes please, because the one thing I’ve always said is that the games are way too short.

    Everything in the game happens “quickly in the moment”. Where do we stop the replays? Pass interference? Holding?

    It’s an imperfect world we live in.

  5. I just mentioned this to a work bud. Too many players going for knockout hits, but hits such as the Vernon Davis took against Seattle was just an overreaction personal foul call. That was just a vicious hit, but not a dirty one. IMO, if you’re caught with a legitimate head to head hit, you should be tossed, or suspended a game.

  6. Obviously going to slow the game down more than it is but unfortunately because Goodell is hell bent on ruining football, this has become a huge deal. Maybe it warrants a closer look? Or maybe you just let them play the game?

  7. Totally agree. As a fan you cant even celebrate a good hit until after you wait to see if theres a flag. Refs throw flags on every hard hit and dont seem to care if they get it right. I’ve seen multiple examples of drives being extended on horrible personal foul calls. Review em!

  8. Can we slow the game down anymore? This is getting ridiculous. As long as there’s a human element and judgement calls there’s going to be mistakes.

  9. In the future the games will be 12 hours long … and the final result will be announced days later once the respective clubs’ legal teams present their briefs to the newly formed “Victory Committee” for a ruling.

  10. Has anyone else noticed players starting to lead more with their shoulders and forearms but still targeting the head? This is not getting called, but still produces the same effect. The penalty needs to be changed so that any targeting of the head is included, which would make the game safer and eliminate the need for the refs to make any judgment calls (like making all facemask penalties 15 yards).

  11. Pollard is a beast. Why did the Texans let him go? Because he can’t play single man coverage? Bad move, your loss, our gain. Go Ravens.

  12. I get his frustration…guys go low trying to hit the torso, then the receiver ducks. But opening up penalty calls to reply is a pandora’s box…you know interference will be the next cry.

  13. contract says: Jan 9, 2013 10:35 AM

    “So why not use replays during the games to make sure the calls are correct?”

    Because pretty soon NFL games will be as long as MLB games. You can’t review EVERYTHING.


    I’d rather the game was five minutes longer, than lose a game on a bad personal foul call…. with 3 minutes left… on a great defensive play that otherwise would have forced a punt.

  14. No they shouldn’t review helmet to helmet. But they should do away with the defenseless receiver rule. It’s not football anymore. Lets just put flags around their waste.

  15. I still say they make these helmet-to-helmet penalties the way they used to do facemasks: intentional-15 and a 1st. unintentional- 5 yds. Intentional would be spearing, leading with the helmet, direct contact with helmet. Unintentional would be instances in which the defender is already in position to make the tackle with his head lowered (in the chest region) THEN the receiver drops into that zone, as well as shoulder contact prior to helmet contact (indirect).

    That being said, I’d still say it’s worth reviewing. I’ve seen several games where this had made a HUGE difference in a drive on a terrible call all because the refs ASSUME helmet to helmet contact because they see the recievers head whip back. Like Ed Reed a few weeks back against the Giants. Led with his shoulder, Cruz drops his head INTO Reed, and they get the penalty which never should’ve occured.

  16. What about a rule for quarterbacks who duck their heads intentionally as they’re being sacked to try and draw the helmet-to-helmet call? Why is the defensive player always the one at fault on a helmet-to-helmet hit?

  17. Then get ready Pollard to be billied for all those illegal cheap shots you don’t get flagged for that will now be reviewed and acted upon. Genius.

  18. To the people who are complaining that the games would get even longer because of this, consider:

    I can watch the play on TV, have the production truck spin up a replay to show if it was a legitimate penalty or not, and get a talking head comment before the next snap of the game.

    How will this delay the game significantly, on a penalty that might not even come up during a game? Now if you were to suggest this for offensive/defensive holding then I’d agree it would slow things down greatly.

    However, to meet folks in the middle, add it to the list of things a head coach can throw the red flag on. If he wants to risk using up his limited challenges then put it on him.

  19. You guys are acting like there are 50 helmet to helmet calls per game. To review 1 or 2 more plays a game is NOT going to slow the game down that much. Besides, half of you would be “female dog” in if an incorrect helmet to helmet call ruined your team’s chances of a win.

  20. here is is a major issue with NFL & players. how do you determine or define “targeting” the head as opposed to just accidently hitting the head if said player is in the process of turning, sliding, trying to move forward, coming down from a caught pass, etc. i’d say easily more than 50% of these alleged illegal hits are intended to be legal but the players are moving so fast in different directions it is impossible to change directions or stop momentum in a milli second. I understand the reasons but zebras have gotten really flag happy & 15 yard penalty almost amounts to a turnover & could be considered that if it is called on third down play, especially when the naked eye & brain cannot really make an intelligent judgement call in a milli second to throw the flag or not.

  21. Any penalty that is for a “fineable offense” should be elligible for challenge, but with the same limitations for available challenges that are now in place. The penalty for pass interference should also be changed to a 15 yard maximum, as many times these calls are the result of great acting jobs, or flawed “judgements” of the amount of contact that actuallu occurred.

  22. How about just telling the refs to stop reaching for the yellow hanky every time there is a big hit? Replays on hits should be for deciding whether to fine someone, not dole out a 15-yard penalty.

    Make the fines stiffer, levy suspensions for actual repeat offenders. Tell the refs to keep the flags in their pockets unless it’s obvious. That’s how you’ll cut down on illegal hits without ruining the game.

  23. Yes absolutely review them! We see time and time again that there’s a big hit, ref sees the man on the ground, the crowd reacts, and out comes the penalty flag (incorrectly).

    They should also start fining the refs for these calls as well, cut down on the flag happiness that we see.

  24. I don’t understand the “it’ll slow the game down even more” argument. You’ll still have the same 2 challenges per team as you had before, this would just expand what you can choose to use them on.

    I definitely think helmet to helmet should be reviewable. It’s hardly a judgment call. It’s as black and white as a “did he or did he not catch it” review or a “did he get two feet in bounds” review.

    In this case, it’s “did the helmets touch or did they not touch” review. It either happened, or it didn’t.

    This penalty is too severe for it not to be reviewable. It’s 15 yards and it typically gets called on third down deep passes, which by nature, typically means it’s a crucial situation.

  25. Dude, do you have any idea how extremely long winded a game would get if they started video review on penalties. Do I really need to see that many commercials? It’ll rot my brain.)

  26. Pollard is one of the singular dirtiest players in the modern NFL. He invariably targets the knees or head of whoever he’s hitting.

    Of course he doesn’t think there was anything wrong with his dirty hit and if replays would overturn the maybe 1 out of 10 dirty hits he makes of course he thinks that’s a great thing to add to the games.

  27. The answer to that is a NO, Because then that would give the refs the right to replay all hits and the game would turn from a 3 hour game to a 6 hour game.

    Dont think so

  28. No way should they use instant replay! Then, coaches could throw a flag thinking that a helmet-to-helmet penalty wasn’t called, and if reviewed and the ever-so-slightest helmet-to-helmet contact was made, a 15 yard penalty would ensue. Not a good idea…

  29. Pollard and reed are dirty trashy football players. Pollard is a waste of talent and has always led with his head and hurts his team at least 3 times a game. shut it Bernie. ed reed has and will always lead with his helmet because the dude is too weak to hit properly. easily the most selfish and overrated safety ever to play. a disgrace to the number 20 and the reason peyton is drooling right now as ed can’t cover or tackle any broncos reciever. stop crying Bernie and watch brian dawkins hit. dude ended careers legally.typical raven…whining about officials. just remember you won as many games in the final two months as my eagles and you lost to the worst eagles team since 1998.

  30. Enough with the replay nonsense. I don’t even watch games live anymore, the pace is so slow I can’t stand it.

  31. I a bit conflicted on this. On the one hand I agree that it should be reviewed more closely considering it is a 15 yard penalty. However, it opens up a possibility of every flag being reviewed and if it comes to that this would make the games longer with no action being done. While I’d like the games to be fair this would just kill the game with so many items being reviewed.

  32. Terrible idea.

    If you’re able to review for when there is a flag thrown for helmet to helmet, then you’d likely also be able to review for when there isn’t a flag thrown but the coach suspects there was helmet to helmet.

    And do you realize how many times there’s a slight amount of contact that would result in a penalty? About 75% of sacks, and countless other DB-receiver hits.

    If you want to get rid of the penalties, then you have to change the rule. Unfortunately, the direction the league is headed, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  33. When you watch a lot of different games on Sunday, one problem stands out. The refs seem to be leary of when to call or not. Having these full time refs they should be required to watch the different games and how each crew observes the rules. How can you call helmet to helmet in some cases and still allow the running backs to lead wth there helmets. Safety the word of the NFL lately goes to all players.This is the type of rules that seem suspect as a fan.

  34. harrisonhits2 says:Jan 9, 2013 11:09 AM

    Pollard is one of the singular dirtiest players in the modern NFL. He invariably targets the knees or head of whoever he’s hitting.
    “I’ve really lowered my target area to where it’s down around the knees,” Harrison said. “Situations come along where you could tackle the guy high. I don’t do that anymore. I tackle the guy low.”

  35. How about making it a fine only. Remove it as a penalty since it is mainly a normal football action but keep the fines to attempt to alter the behaviour. Don’t allow clubs to pay player’s fines.

  36. Alright everyone calm down. For years now there has been a stop in the game after turnovers and TDs so the networks can play their commercials, so reviewing these plays haven’t added any time to the game. This change wouldn’t really change things either because there aren’t that many hits like this during a game. You might see one or two in one game, but I think in the majority of games you won’t see it flagged once. So its not really a big deal. And even if they review its usually pretty black and white call once you see the review. While things like turnovers, TDs and PI can be judgement calls.

  37. Pollard has a point. The real injustice is 50 yard pass interference calls…. they should absolutely be reviewable.

  38. I can’t really blame the refs for this… they’re being instructed to err on the side of caution and with that, means more flags… I think it is a terrible way to officiate a game, or more specifically, to instruct your refs to officiate this way…

    The crazy thing is that most of these hits that are being flagged in the NFL are not flagged in college or high school… There were at least 3 hits in the BCS Championship game that would’ve drew a flag in the NFL with this defenseless receiver/head to head contact crap…

  39. with all the money that the NFL makes, i don’t see how they don’t have a group (2 or 3 refs) sitting in the booth and assist the main referees on the fields with questionable calls.
    I know that that would sometimes make the referees on the field look bad if they miss some obvious calls, but isn’t everyone’s interest the integrity of the game and fair plays?

    It’s pathetic enough that the coach has to challenge some of these silly calls… they shouldn’t have to challenge in the first place. the refs in the booth should just reviewed and make it right.

  40. I disagree. The problem here is that they’ve created another rule that is subjective and can’t possibly be enforced.

    It needs to be removed. The NFL needs to focus on telling the players the truth about head injuries, pour a ton of money into safety research, and mandate the use of the latest, safest equipment. At the least, it should be reduced to a 5 yd penalty.

  41. I think the NFL has become too soft. Unless a defender leaves his feet and blatantly leads with his helmet, there shouldn’t be a flag. These penalties being called because a defender touches a QB’s helmet or bumps face masks are ridiculous. To top it off, the defense isn’t even allowed to hit a receiver until he is allowed to catch the ball. Are you kidding me? What happened to jarring the ball as soon as a receiver touches it? Oh, that’s right, he’s a “defenseless receiver”. I would say thanks to the rules the defense is becoming defenseless to stop a pass. Be careful NFL, if you change the things that made this game so popular it’s not going to stay popular. We don’t want touch football!

  42. How about something in the middle? It can be challenged by the coach, and perhaps it’s an “automatic booth review” in the final two minutes of a half and overtime. But not automatic like TDs and turnovers. That way, if it’s truly egregious and at a very key moment, if the coach wants to challenge it? Let him. If not, play on. And I’d hate for a game to be decided by a bad call on helmet to helmet in the final two minutes. But automatic review would be ridiculous. Given coaches probably don’t want to be using challenges on judgment calls, the net effect probably is minor. But perhaps it can help eliminate the obvious blown calls on helmet to helmet. But, of course, the flipside is coaches, in theory, should be allowed to challenge when a flag is NOT thrown for helmet to helmet. So six of one, half dozen of the other. Like others have said, it’s an imperfect world.

  43. Far too many times they call helmet to helmet and the guy got struck in the chest or shoulder pad and nowhere near his head, but that is 15 yards and an automatic first down. That’s got to stop.

  44. Interestingly enough, I didn’t think Pollard made helmet to helmet contact UNTIL I saw the replay.

    I have nothing nice to say about Bernard Pollard, but in a real-time situation I’m not sure if I would have flagged him for that hit. It looked okay at full speed.

    But hey, remorseless cheapshot artists rarely get the benefit of the doubt.

  45. It was CLEARLY helmet to helmet by Pollard on Wayne.
    Replay would have confirmed.
    I am not against replay to check. Lets get it right.
    Which Pollard should know they did….

  46. Pollard is a cheap shot artist, but he’s on to something here. As long as the NFL continues to give an unfair advantage to the offense with their rules, they should at least give the defense a chance to challenge the ruling on the field. It won’t completely redress the imbalance, but it’s better than nothing.

  47. Go back to leather helmets, no face masks, and soft shoulder pads, and all the player health issues will go away.

  48. Ya gotta draw the lines on replays somewhere and I think thats too much.

    The only replay rules Im hoping for is automatic replay for all “potential” scoring plays and no limit on successful challenges.

  49. They could increase the number of plays that are able to be reviewed by replay and not significantly reduce the pace at which games are played by stopping the dog and pony show of trotting the ref over to the on field replay monitor and making it all go to a control center like they do in hockey. One guy, or two or three all in the same room, making the call across the board. That way you have consistency in the application of the rules and you don’t have to worry about a ref in a hostile environment being effected by the fans.

    Any foul that is called for more than 15 yards gets a quick peek. If it is legit, then the game rolls on. If it is bogus, then the guy buzzes in and says no dice. You can’t change plays where calls weren’t made, only ones that were. So, while the refs all huddle up to discuss it, and then the march off the foul and get everything reset, that gives plenty of time to have a guy take a peek at it.

    Keep the two challenges, and have them encompass what they currently cover, but have it done away from the field at a control center with guys that are up to date on the league’s accepted interpretation of the rules.

  50. Pollard…you are an idiot…You complain about being flagged for the hit, then turn around and get a 15 yard taunting penalty the very NEXT play

  51. ajb3313 says:Jan 9, 2013 12:50 PM

    I have another idea for a penalty: 5 yards every time a player motions for an official to throw a flag.


    Totally agree with you… It’s getting crazy. I hate it when the late flag comes out for Pass Interference after a player is yapping at the ref.

    Alternatively to the 5 yard penalty I was thinking they could give a warning and then an unsportsmanlike conduct the next time. I think I like the 5 yard better though.

  52. rather than slow the game down alot, have the replay official have the authority to override the helmet to helmet flag, the on the field official wouldn’t have to go under the hood. the replay official could just send word down that the hit was clean and the flag would just get picked up.

    I still think flags should only get thrown when it is obvious not just a close call and not when the offensive player ducked down.

  53. Maybe, but the coach should have to throw a challenge flag. No automatic review like what they’re doing with turnovers and TDs.

    Excessive stoppages to review each and every play is why replay failed the first time around. It’s why they came up with the whole “Coach’s Challenge” system — to limit the use to a somewhat reasonable level.

  54. As a Patriots fan Pollard is the most hated player in the NFL for me. I usually completely disagree with what he says also. In this case I can’t believe that I fully agree with him. Replay the defensless receiver and roughing the passer penalties. They have to do something about pass interference too, but one thing at a time. The benefit to the team receiving the penalties in these cases can be game changing. They are calls that can’t afford to be missed.

  55. Part of the problem is the NFL-directed policy to err on the side of “protecting the player.” Everyone can see through that for what it is — and it corrupts the outcomes of games.

    I agree with Pollard: get the call right. Too many teams have gotten hosed with absurd calls, and players have been forced to eat stiff fines. Kam Chancellor and Ed Reed both come to mind from fairly recent games.

  56. 74% of us voted to install the replay, so all of you with cute little comments against Pollard or someone else is complete BS. Most of us want to make it right because we’ve seen too many penalties called that weren’t with the helmit.

    And to the guy who said it would be as long as an MLB game…they have very little replay. The reason baseball games are so long is because they take time for a guy to adjust his hat (spitball) or scratch his nuts. Nothing like the NFL which has a clock involved.

  57. ajb3313 says:Jan 9, 2013 12:50 PM

    I have another idea for a penalty: 5 yards every time a player motions for an official to throw a flag.


    Does that including the motion of fans as well

  58. Great idea. Those complaining about length of games should complain about the massive number of commercials being shown and stopping games for huge lengths of time on every change of possession. How about the 10 minutes it takes review, show commercials, and stand around after each score? Don’t blame the replays to get the calls right, but instead the unnecessary stoppages as the NFL is a slave to TV commercials.

  59. Forget the replay. There’s too much of that already. Too many players are already driven more about money than winning, so I say take way 50% of their game check for a flagrant first time offense. 100% plus suspension for a second. Four game suspension after that. All fines and reviews are done on Tuesdays by FORMER players. Personal fouls are called only if it’s helmet to helmet and the player leaves his feet (like the James Harrison hit on Massoquoi a few years ago). There’s too much room for error if it’s reviewed and judged on the field.

  60. There will always be 20 breaks per game (possibly 21 if the network sold that spot) no matter what they do. The real slowdown is when the breaks have been satisfied, or they’ve already gotten 4 in before the 2 minute warning (where the 5th one will go) and we stop the game and stay there while the review takes place – inside two minutes in the half will take even longer than it does now.

    They’ll end up having to sell four more spots to allow for these reviews. The game would be too long. It’s already in the 3:08 range now. With the networks wanting the early games over in time to switch to the later games (and be able to run their spots – something they can’t do if the earlier game is overlapping) there just isn’t the time to add more stoppages.

    As far as Harrison goes, the knees aren’t the only body parts below the head. There’s an awful lot there to hit before he gets to the knees. Wrapping up wouldn’t hurt, either. How many times do you see a defender go for the big kill shot without wrapping up and the ball carrier continues on?

  61. ajb3313 says:
    Jan 9, 2013 12:50 PM
    I have another idea for a penalty: 5 yards every time a player motions for an official to throw a flag.


    The patriots would never score if that happened. Tommy Boy loves to motion for flags.

  62. As much as it sucks when the refs make a wrong call, they can not review every single play or games would be lasting 8 hours. Do fans really want to spend that much time at a game

  63. The game wouldn’t last longer if the networks were smarter with commercials.

    – Play being reviewed, let’s cut to a commercial

    – Back from the commercial, someone gets hurt on the next play. Let’s cut to a commercial – cue somber music

    – Back from commercial, next play is a TD and we kick the extra point.

    – Commercial break

    – Kick off. Run a play, and that’s the end of the qaurter. Time for a commercial.

    That’s probably 10 minutes of commercials for as little as a couple minutes of football.

  64. If they take 2.5 minutes for commercial, they can take a bit more time to review these controversial calls. It’s more money for the league, so why should Goodell oppose?

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