After Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier leveled Bengals running back Giovani Bernard with a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit in the playoffs, the NFL said Shazier’s hit was legal. But it won’t be anymore.
NFL V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino said today that under a new interpretation of the league’s rules against hits with the crown of the helmet, hits like Shazier’s will be illegal going forward.
Specifically, the new interpretation eliminates the requirement that a defender would have to “line up” his opponent in order for a hit with the crown of the helmet to be a penalty. Starting this season, when a defender lowers his head and forcibly hits with the crown of the helmet, it will be a foul, regardless of the angle the player takes.
The new interpretation comes too late for Bernard, but it’s a sensible decision by the NFL: At a time when the league calls brain injuries its greatest concern, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to allow brutal hits like the one Shazier put on Bernard.