McKay says helmet rule “absolutely not” about litigation avoidance


Plenty of fans think that the move to make pro football safer comes from a desire to protect the coffers against future litigation filed by the players of today.

Falcons president Rich McKay, who chairs the league’s Competition Committee, addressed that concern during a Thursday visit to Pro Football Talk.

“Absolutely not,” McKay said, “it’s about protecting the players.  I’ve been on the Committee for 20 years and it’s never been a discussion in our room of, ‘Well we’re worried about a litigation about this or a litigation about a knee injury.’  We’re worried about player safety and I think one of the great things about the league is it’s been a focus of ours for a long time and there’s such a long process that goes into it.

“People think that, well, there’s a Competition Committee, they take guys, and they come up with these rules. There’s such a long process. This is a rule we’ve actually talked about for a couple of years with the [NFL] Players Association, with the Head, Neck, and Spine Committee, with Coach Madden’s subcommittee, all of those things.  So the reasoning behind these rules is, number one, the short-term health and safety of the players and, number two, the long-term health and safety of our players.”

McKay has no concern regarding the potential impact of enhanced safety rules on the long-term welfare of the game. At some point, could another league that promises “old-school” football with big hits and players willing to take the risks emerge to threaten the NFL?

“No, I don’t think so, Mike, and I’ll tell you why,” McKay said. “It doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be another league; obviously there could be at any time.  But remember what football is.  Football is the ultimate team sport and it begins at a very young age and we’re the leaders of that sport and we take the responsibility for that.  So if we ever get the mindset that, hey, we have to leave this game as tough as it is and in some way we don’t encourage younger players to play our game then be assured of this, in time it will affect our game.  It will have an effect and that’s something that we can never forget and that’s why we always say when we pass rule changes, we’re passing it hoping to force it all the way down to the littlest guys playing our game and so that everybody understands how safe our game can be.

“So the fact that somebody may decide to play ultimate football or ultimate whatever, fine for them.  But in our game we’re always going to look out for the entire game, that starts from the little guys playing football, high school football, college football, and us because what’s made us great is that entire feeder system of that chain has made our game as great as it is.”

It’s a responsible and prudent approach, but the resistance from players and criticism from fans suggests that, eventually, a league that plays football “the way it used to be played” could pose a threat to the NFL’s future.  Then again, if parents view the game as unacceptably dangerous, the supply of football players eventually will be choked off.

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72 responses to “McKay says helmet rule “absolutely not” about litigation avoidance

  1. “Absolutely not,” McKay said, “it’s about protecting the players.”

    Really? Because if that’s the case then you’re about 40 years too late. On the other hand…

  2. We all should sue the NFL for a the product that they are putting on the field. We all want to pay 130.00 and watch the refs stand in a corner to get the call correct..

  3. wow he clearly doesn’t get it and won’t even mention what everyone is thinking to make it seem like irs never crossed theor minds? knee injuries….give me a break. what a clown

  4. Here’s to hoping that another another league is formed – how about the RFL Real Football League. Who would have thought Bernard Pollards prediction would start coming true within the same year it was made.

  5. Here’s my take on this from earlier to today, still seems fitting and will be unpopular if your comments are any indication.
    nineroutsider says: Mar 21, 2013 5:09 PM

    This is the real reason that Goodell is so focused on making the game safer. It’s actually really smart; just go with me here. Goodell isn’t focused on safety because of Congress or pending lawsuits, he is focused on safety because the good of the game depends on it long term.

    Schools are going away from football. Its a trend that everyone will hear about soon if they haven’t already. The NFL depends on players starting young and working their way up the system. The NFL wants the best athletes. Parents are concerned about football. Concerned parents of the best athletes will push their kids away from football. Eventually the quality of the game will diminish and fans will be turned off. The NFL wants to assuage the worries of parents and continue to keep their funnel full of prime athletes. They very much need youth football and are willing to change the game to maintain a steady stream of the best athletes. It makes a lot of sense to me, even if I don’t like the changes…which I don’t.

    We can’t always bash people and whine and complain, we need to think intelligently about why things are being done and what can be done differently to improve the situation. I don’t know the answers, but talking about flag belts may be funny it offers little to advance the conversation. So advance the ball…

  6. “it’s never been a discussion in our room of, ‘Well we’re worried about a litigation about this or a litigation about a knee injury.’”

    Of course not. They aren’t stupid. They’re billionaires. They talk about the legal stuff with their lawyers and at the bar. That’s life, and business.

  7. Who cares what the motivations are from the NFL on making players safer? Who benefits from season and career ending injuries to the players we love to watch play the game?

    Lowing your helmet into a defender has no benefit beyond attempting to injure the other player. The fact that everybody believes that the NFL is implementing this rule to avoid litigation helps support the suggestion that this is a dangerous act on the field. Besides, if defensive players cannot lead with the helmet, why should offensive players be allowed to?

    What is the big deal over this rule? How will the game be worse by making sure players don’t lead with the helmet? What does the game lose from removing this stuff? Hit with the shoulder pads; it’s what the players are taught to do from Pee Wee on anyway.

    I don’t get why it matters what the reasoning is behind the rule change from the perspective of the NFL committee. The result is positive. Should charities give back money that the rich donate simply because they want the tax breaks? I won’t miss the helmet-leading hits nearly as much as I miss the players going on IR because of them.

  8. Football is dangerous.
    Parents say so.
    Even the President says so.
    The military can also be dangerous. People are often injured, sometimes even killed.
    That leads me to believe that the President would never allow or encourage his daughters to enlist into the military, which would be a slap in the face to all who have ever served.
    Because of alarmed parents and Presidents, the supply of military personnel eventually will be choked off.
    Then what?

  9. Sure McKay. Do you think anyone actually buys that the NFL owners are forcing these rule changes – in the interest of player safety – because they’ve suddenly developed a conscience? Spin it however you like, but if it smells like BS it probably is.

  10. Funny how these rules were never thought of in the many years of the NFL’s existence until they started getting sued.

    In other words… I call BS on that.

  11. Nineroutsider, you’re either a paid mouthpiece or you’ve been drinking truckloads of koolaid. Of course its about litigation. The league realizes if they do nothing about safety now, they will continue to see these lawsuits from former players. Did you not realize the safety crusade didn’t start until the lawsuits started happening? Until then, then NFL could have CARED LESS about player safety.

    If Goodell, upon taking his position as commish day one, had publicly declared “We’re going to make this game safer.” I might buy that argument. He did not. Goodell had his chance, like the last 2 guys before him and did nothing.

  12. Look, McKay, everyone knows you are lying. Everyone. What’s wrong with just telling the truth? Especially when everybody already knows it. Why ruin whatever credibility you had? I just don’t understand it.

  13. @bobzilla1001 – I’m not sure how you make the connection between pro football and the armed forces. Football doesn’t deserve to be compared to the armed forces does it? Certainly the armed forces are 100x times more important in your eyes…I hope. Please do explain it.

  14. If kids were as focused on extreme safety like MaKay is trying to make people believe, then one would think High School State Football Championships would only be in flag football.

    He’s spinning a pile of smelly logic.

  15. Skirts on QB’s
    DB’s can’t touch WR’s
    “In the grasp”
    No horse-collar tackles
    DL can’t head slap
    Can’t hit “defenseless” WR
    QB can slide
    Rooney Rule
    No helmet to helmet hits
    Can’t wear pads or tackle in practice
    No wedges on kickoffs
    Mandatory gays on team
    Eliminate kickoff returns from game
    RB’s can’t lower their head

    Flag football is coming! As Vince Lombardi would say, “what the hell is going on here!!”

  16. My real concern about the new rule is with the way it will be interpreted on the field, by the zebras. It will be controversial and not just this coming season, but possibly in perpetuity. The reason I say this is the mistake-riddled history of the NFL game officials as a whole. It will be up to these men to see plays being run at incredible speeds, times 22-players, and every angle imaginable, and then to make calls where very often they won’t actually see the totality of the supposed infraction. There are going to be such calls that will change the outcomes of some games.

    Now for the question; Since the technologies are available to do it, when is the NFL going to start verifying the accuracy of the calls made on the field in meaningful ways, that will return fairness to the judging process? Football in the 40’s didn’t have the ton of rules we have today, and it didn’t have the controversies that seem to pepper each season today.

    The implementation of the “Tuck Rule”, and its revocation only serve to point up the fact that there are inadequacies in the way football games are officiated. The first time a zebra yellow flags a player for using the “crown” of his helmet to butt another player, and half the viewing public clearly sees that he didn’t, the fit will hit the shan, and who knows if we’ll ever hear the end of it?

  17. Liar. But he’s a politically correct liar b/c he cannot come right out and say the truth which is that since all these former and current players are suing the NFL, that the NFL has no choice but to invoke every safety measure possible to keep these players from catching a cold on the field.
    The NFLPA and the players themselves are to blame. I do not blame the owners from protecting themselves at all. They need to be able to go into court and say “see, we did everything we could to protect players”.
    Again, players KNOW that they will get injured playing football. Do soldiers know that they could get hurt or killed in combat? Yes, yet they do it anyway by their own volition. The same goes for NFL players.
    Why don’t these players sue the colleges that they played at? Because those colleges are protected from lawsuits.

  18. “Absolutely not,” McKay said, “it’s about protecting the players.”

    No, it is not and we all know it is not.

    Amazing age we live in, isn’t it? People are no longer taking what authority figures have to say as truth. Our ability to know when we are being spun on, I think, is thanks to politicians who have become brazen with their BS and in many cases, outright lies.

    Well, there may be nothing we can do about the rule changes, but we don’t have to sit here and pretend we don’t know what’s really going on.

    p.s. We also know about professional trolling.

  19. Anyone else getting sick and tired of these turds from the incestuous NFL gene pool hand plucked by the men who birthed them? I am.
    If Roger Goodell wants to start promoting equality in NFL executive hiring, he should start by addressing the rampant nepotism in the league.

  20. Anyone for this rule has not actually thought about possible outcomes.
    Scenario: 3rd Down and 3 late in the game. A handoff off tackle and the RB has to go outside to avoid a tackle…tucks the ball away and lowers his head to dive for the first down but contacts a DB anywhere with his helmet; ref throws a flag for using helmel as a weapon–15 yard penalty. Punt ball away and opponent drives ball for winning score.
    Penalty costs a team the game.
    Also, you don’t reach out with the ball for fear of fumbling; you tuck the ball away to protect it.

    Its just another ambiguous judgement call that can’t be called consistently because not everyone will see the play the same way or from the same angle.

  21. I don’t believe anyone is against “player safety” but can we stop acting like the professionals don’t know what they are doing and the risks they are taking?!

    Anyone who has played football at any age signs a release form stating they are aware serious injury or death may occur while playing.

    No one enjoys watching serious injuries. But tackle Football is a contact sport. The NFL got to where it is because of what it inherantly is.

    I also don’t believe this is where it is going to stop.

    If there are multiple knee injuries on stars this year from tackles aimed at the knees are “low tackles going to be penalized?

  22. McKay is either lying through his teeth or the League has gone insane with putting all these new rules in place to ruin the game .(or both !).

  23. Absolutely absurd. Crowns of helmets, Brady tucking a ball, & reflagged rules…But, nothing on the safety of players pertaining to FedEx Field.

  24. “Schools are going away from football. Its a trend that everyone will hear about soon if they haven’t already.”


    That’s where your argument fell apart for me. Schools are not going away from football. Football is and will continue to be a major source of revenue for colleges and universities, and as long as that remains so, nothing will change. As the old saying goes: Money talks, BS walks…

  25. He then followed it up with a statement that his last name was “absolutely not” McKay and that he had “absolutely nothing to do with” the NFL or the Falcons.

  26. Take away Jaquiz Rogers run over Earl Thomas in the playoffs last year. Without it, Falcons lose momentum gained by that run and may likely lose that game.

  27. So the running back ducks down his shoulders but has to keep his head up…. UHMMM… Isn’t that going to produce a lot neck injuries? Really serious neck injuries! Like snapped necks!

  28. And the rest of us say “uhhh hughhhh…..sure it’s not”…………..chumps.

    The Canadian Football League is now closer to what football is than what the NFL is doing.

  29. nineroutsider:
    That’s exactly my point.
    The President should worry about more important things than helping to fuel the overreaction of the dangers of football.
    He’s got enough to worry about. Like, maybe, ending a couple wars.

  30. “Absolutely not,” McKay said, “it’s about protecting the players.”

    Really? Did you poll the players and ask them about it?

    Have EVERY current NFL player sign a waiver and the one’s that don’t can’t play.

  31. McKay and his ilk have officially ruined the NFL and they sit there, smug, not caring at all what fans or players think. Already the officials throw a flag for every big hit on defense and now we get a flag for every collision. Officials did a terrible job with the defenseless receiver rule last year. They can’t even get things right with replay. Cancelled my NFL network subscription yesterday.

  32. Money has a lot to do with it, with lawsuits and lost work time. But a lot of it has to do with our culture becoming such a group of safety loving nanny’s. Seriously, I can’t open a box at work with a dull rounded blade box cutter without cut resistant gloves, safety glasses and some clown standing over me making sure I cut away from my body. Not to mention spending hours each week going to and/or working on safety programs. It’s becoming the new standard for large company’s to be so over the top on safety that it makes you want to puke.

    That is what we are seeing in the NFL, and for those of you that have not seen this yet, get ready, it’s coming. It’s a pretty sad state when we live this way. I don’t want to see anyone hurt either, but this is absurd. Football is a rough sport, but if it’s made completely safe, it’s no longer football as we have known it. What a shame. This safety culture of businesses afraid to loose a dollar and the soccer mom’s afraid of their children getting a scratch is dishearting to say the least. When/why did we become so darn soft.

  33. Schools are getting away from football??? Sure some suburban northern high school helicopter parents won’t let their little angels play football, but we will always, always, have fresh inventory from the many southern states who literally live for the game.

    TBH I haven’t decided if I’m going to let my child play the game, but then again I’m one of those northerners…

  34. @unnamedxsource says: Mar 21, 2013 8:47 PM

    “Schools are going away from football. Its a trend that everyone will hear about soon if they haven’t already.”


    That’s where your argument fell apart for me. Schools are not going away from football. Football is and will continue to be a major source of revenue for colleges and universities, and as long as that remains so, nothing will change. As the old saying goes: Money talks, BS walks…

    Speaking of money, a group of billionaire businessmen basically just made the same argument that I made. It’s happening at the very junior levels of football and it will change the pool of athletes for high schools, colleges, etc. It may not be happening in your community but its starting to happen in urban areas; its just a matter of time. Information and progress eventually win. Football has to be made safer or, in the very simplest of terms, “liberalism” will kill it. The league is simply getting out in front of it, that’s all.

  35. He’s a damn liar! So is the NFL! It’s all about litigation. In one breath they’re worried about player safety and in the other they want a 18 game season. SMH.

  36. i always find it amusing when people of power such as athletes, entertainers and politicians say a complete lie or BS statement with authority that it means america or the target audience will believe them like ‘regular joes’ are stupid just bec they arnt rich like them its very amusing..

    we all know your a liar

    and YES if another league comes along and talent switchs i will invest into that league and leave the nfl behind

    as boxing what mma did 2 that sport! and boxing didnt even change rules loll

  37. Ehhh. We all hate it. And well complain. But unless we as fans stop supporting them and make them lose will go on. Plain and simple.

  38. I have no real issue with the rule change itself.

    I do have an issue with the way it will be called.
    We all know this puts allot of power in the Refs Hands.

    If the rule is made very clear on what is and is not acceptable. Then it would be great,but I think this will be the new form of tuck rule controversy.

  39. STUPID, PATHETIC RULE!!! The owners might as well wheel there mom’s out in their wheelchairs for competitive knitting competitions at halftime! STOP RUINING FOOTBALL!!! IMPEACH GOODELL!!!

  40. While there may be a safety aspect to the rule change in the end it IS all about avoiding future litigation. If that weren’t true then none of the RB’s in the league would be complaining about it.

  41. Bring back the XFL with a lot of improvements. Have them play when the NFL is not playing.

    Arena football has too short a field and we defense fans don’t get our fix.

  42. Is McKay trying to turn himself into a laughing stock, or audtioning for the role of the local village idiot?

    The “helmet rule absolutely not about litigation avoidance”? That’s all its about, and the number of former playings filing lawsuits against the league is all the proof one needs.

  43. I believe I have already mentioned that this could happen! Question is, would you fans really drop the NFL for a league that plays “old school” football? The NFL is betting that you wont!

  44. I did a seance with Vince Lombardi the other day, and your name came up. Your toast MOFO.

    I swear only Congress could pass this many stupid laws.

  45. Schools are not going away from football——–unnamedxsource

    Sorry, you’re wrong. There are schools who cannot field teams anymore because participation is low, due to fear of injury and concussion. A couple seconds of research, or just paying attention to what happens in the world will tell you that.

  46. It’s time for this guy to retire. He has been making decisions for way too long. He and Godell are full of @%$%……….Keeping this pace up and we will be playing flag football…

  47. So am I reading this correctly, if a running back lower his head while running toward the line of scrimmage, it will be a penalty? Most running backs do this instinctively assuming he see a group of tacklers

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