Before passing the new catch rule, the NFL provided specific examples of plays (such as the infamous Dez Bryant and Jesse James overturned catches) that would be officiated differently under the new rule. But in passing the new rule on lowering the helmet, the NFL has provided no such examples.
PFT reached out to the NFL to see if we could get a look at some examples of plays that were legal before, but are now illegal under the new rule saying that “Lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet is a foul.” We were told that the league could not provide any video to give specific examples.
The league needs to produce such a video. Until we see specific examples, we have no idea what this rule really means. Under the broadest possible interpretation, “Lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet” happens multiple times on every play. What else is a lineman doing when he comes out of a three-point stance?
The NFL may instruct the officials only to call the most flagrant, violent hits. If that’s the case, this rule may be no more a game-changer than the “crown of the helmet” rule of 2013, which was treated as a big deal at the time but turned out to be a big nothing.
But until the NFL shows us all what is and is not a penalty under this new rule, we simply don’t know. Let’s hope players, coaches and officials all know what the rule really means before the season starts.