After making a new rule this week with hopes of taking the head out of the game, the NFL has to now convince players (and media and fans) that they’re not changing the fundamental way the game is played.
While their keep-it-secret/make-a-splash strategy might have been the best way to push through some legislation in Orlando, they created a wave among players who think the game is being made soft because the league doesn’t want them to use their helmet as a weapon.
“I think we’ll see it have a great effect on one element of this helmet [issue] in how we want the game to be played,” Saints coach Sean Payton said, via Mark Maske of the Washington Post. “I think you’ll still see the physicality. This is the one posture [that’s affected] — we’ll remove it.”
The league has acknowledged that their biggest challenge now will be one of communication, hitting the road to see all 32 teams with the presentation that illustrates what’s legal and what isn’t. While many players have reacted strongly, those involved in the conversations said there weren’t an overwhelming number of hits last year which would have qualified for an ejection.
Between the increasing number of concussions and the devastating Ryan Shazier injury, they knew something had to change, hence the new penalty which banned lowering your head to initiate contact with another player.
“We’ve got to put the materials together. We’ve got to show the tape. We’ve got to make sure all of you see it, they see it, and it’s taught the same way at all 32 [teams],” said Rich McKay, the chairman of the competition committee. “If that happens, I think the players — they’re the best athletes in the world and they’ll conform. Hopefully this becomes a springboard, too: take it all the way down, at all levels [of football] because the head [blows] and the lowering of the head has become too commonplace. And it needs to get out of the game.”
Now they just have to convince the players.