Barry Church wonders if a flag will be thrown on “every play”

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As everyone (including the NFL’s coaches) wait to hear more (anything) about the new rule that prohibits lowering the helmet and initiating contact with it, Jaguars safety Barry Church is concerned that, when the new rule is implemented, it will result in a rash of fouls.

“I don’t understand it because as a defender, when you’re going in for a tackle, your first instinct —  you got to lower yourself to get your pads even with the player’s pads,” Church said on 103.3 FM ESPN in Dallas, via the Dallas Morning News. “So you’re telling me if you’re a defender that needs to lower your pads to get more leverage on a player, and the running back goes low to protect himself, and you guys hit each other, hit him with the helmet or whatever — are they just going to throw a flag basically every single play?

The greatest possibility for a foul comes when the offense is running the ball between the tackles.

“I mean, it happens in the trenches every single play,” Church said. “The running back comes through the hole, he lowers his head, lowers his body, and so does the defender trying to get leverage on him. It’s basically throwing a flag every play, you can if you want to. It’s kind of like holds. It’s tough. That’s tough on defenders.”

Outside the trenches, the problem will come from players taking their target point all the way down to the ground.

“You’re going to have guys instead of hitting guys up top, in the shoulder pads, upper body, you’re going to have guys going super low, hitting guys’ knees, going for ankles just so they don’t get fined,” said Church, who was flagged and fined for delivering a concussion to Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in the AFC Championship. “[T]hat’s going to cause more injuries. It’s going to cause career-enders — not that concussions and all that stuff isn’t career-ending — but, I mean, you’re going after guys’ legs eventually, and that’s going to make the sport extremely dangerous.”

He’s right, but the NFL worries much more about heads than knees and ankles, because it’s concussions, not lower-extremity injuries, that are causing parents to keep kids from playing youth football, potentially choking off the supply of future professional football players. If careers of professional players end prematurely due to leg injuries, they can easily be replaced. If kids stop playing football altogether, there will be no replacements. And no need for them.

38 responses to “Barry Church wonders if a flag will be thrown on “every play”

  1. I agree with his initial take on the situation. I would venture the guess that there will be more lower leg injuries as a result of this change. I would also venture the guess that, if polled, the vast majority of players would prefer a head injury to an acl injury.

  2. This will be a reserve in the bag type penalty that can be called at anytime. This leads me to think it will be abused according to agendas or natural rooting interests within the officiating crews. To have make up calls, they will assess the same penalty on the other team before they have to punt.

  3. I don’t think the competition committee or the media thinks this out when they talk about the rules. What is the average DB suppose to do vs TEs such as Gronk, Kelce or many others? There to big to just wrap up and bring down. That tackling sled you practiced on all your life isn’t 6’6″ and weight 265lbs. They guys can’t practice because of safety and the rules change year to year because of safety and we wonder why the product is suffering.

    At some point you just have to say this sport is dangerous. Play or don’t. Football won’t be the top sport for ever and I am ok with it as long as it is still football.

  4. No one ever played in the Turkey game (Thanksgivng Sat game) without pads?

    No one ever grew up playing tackle without pads? My body still hurts.

    We did lead with our heads from time to time and you got knocked out, again, from time to time.

    But I will get a 1000 thumbs down because the weekend warriors on here never played a down in their life.

    Yeah, they get paid a lot but at what cost? So a bunch of drunks can play fantasy football and pretend they know a game they never played?

  5. Just don’t lead with your head Barry, hit with your shoulder pads.
    Don’t use your helmet as a weapon, it’s not hard to understand.

  6. I’m definitely curious to see how this will be enforced. Five years ago the NFL approved a rule change prohibiting running backs from lowering their head and using the crown of their helmet to hit defenders. I’ve yet to see a flag thrown for that penalty.

  7. Barry Church concerned about career ending injuries is rich given his dirty helmet to helmet hit on Gronk has had him contemplating retirement.

  8. The answer is yes. Especially for the Rams so the television can shove the male cheerleaders down the fans throats. Especially ESPN games and you know who else.

  9. Barry Church is spot on but I don’t think he should worry to much as the Competition Committee is probably working on the garish eye burning Nike flags that will go on to each uniform.

  10. Not fun to watch the outcome of the game right now with the amount of flags being thrown. I can see the amount of flags double because of this new rule.

  11. owlbania says:
    April 1, 2018 at 2:06 pm
    Just don’t lead with your head Barry, hit with your shoulder pads.
    Don’t use your helmet as a weapon, it’s not hard to understand.


    Describe how one hits with one’s shoulder(s) without lowering one’s head…

  12. Better to err on the side of safety.
    So what if there are an extra 10 bogus PFs called per game, it will even things out.

    Look at it this way – there si a shortage of good QBs. Now teams with bad QBs have a chance, run the ball and hope for a PF called on the defenders. A couple of 15 yard penalties + 1st downs can greatly help a team with a bad QB.


  13. Before the NFL plays one game this year, they need to have a nationally televised public explanation of this new rule. They need to choose a film of any NFL game that was played last year. They need to sit there and watch it with the head referee and a representative from the league office. They need to watch every play on slow motion, and have the referee explain just exactly which hits would be flagged, and which plays would not. I think this public breaking down of the game film would cause the NFL to put this new rule on hold until they figure out a better way. All this is going to do is allow the refs to pick and choose when they want to throw the flag. That’s just not competition. Fans are drawn to live sports competitions. Players competing, and the best team wins. This new rule eliminates the players as determining factors, and puts the outcome too much in the hands of the refs. I don’t know of one decent human being that doesn’t want to make football safer. But when every game is determined by the refs, and not the players, the sport will die. I understand there are those that would like to see this sport die, but most of us just want to see this great game made safer. This is just a dumb rule. The intentions might be good, but that’s no excuse.

  14. owlbania says:
    April 1, 2018 at 2:06 pm
    Just don’t lead with your head Barry, hit with your shoulder pads.
    Don’t use your helmet as a weapon, it’s not hard to understand.


    Describe how one hits with one’s shoulder(s) without lowering one’s head…
    People are confused by what “lowering the head” means. Not lowering your head doesn’t mean you have to somehow keep your head 5 feet off the ground while your shoulders are only 3 feet off the ground. It means you need to keep your chin up and your face forward and not lead into it with the top of your head. “See what you hit”. I was told this by literally every coach I had from peewee to college.

  15. It makes me laugh how many people commenting on these threads never actually played the game at any level beyond Pop Warner. The speed of the game and the astronomical number of variables involved makes it a rare situation when a textbook tackle can actually be carried out. Helmet to helmet contact, including contact with the crown, is unavoidable. Give thumbs down and uninformed replies all you want…those of us who have actually played know better.

  16. This rule is being hyped up. No one really knows how it will go down. Commentators always disagree with ref calls during a game already. This will add to even more confusion though and if the NFL gets into gambling we will be entering deep waters that lots of people will be saying the game is rigged.

  17. Why do so many people struggle with the simple concept of looking at what you hit? If you have eyes on the target and not your shoelaces, chances are you’ll be fine.

  18. I guess run blocking will also be illegal because you go head to head on pretty much every running play.

  19. The problem with this rule is the same as the current helmet to helmet rules: a defender and offensive player both moving at a high rate of speed and the NFL expects these guys to tackle with the precision of a surgeon in an operating room. It’s unrealistic and really just another phony move by the league to protect itself from concussion lawsuits.
    The NFL has been taking its fans and popularity for granted for years under Goodell. When is the last time the league did anything to appeal to the interests of its longtime fans? A tipping point is near. This rule change could be that tipping point. A moment when virtually every gamr is decided by which team gets the most breaks from officials with the arbitrary flag throwing.

  20. Even though many disagree, those thinking about and actually changing the rules aren’t stupid people.

    As they sit around and discuss and gather input and then come up with wording for the rule for the rule book, what took place before it was finalized?

    Did they bring in their head of officials and some other refs and tell them that this is what we’re thinking about doing to this rule, can’t lower, lead with head/helmet.

    Then, I would hope that they threw on a lot of film (on iPads, laptops etc.) and had all those in the room including the officials look at the plays and decide whether a flag should have been thrown or would be thrown if that happens with the new proposed language in the rule change.

    No, games aren’t being played in the offseason but I sure hope that they looked at hundreds of plays on film, hundreds of rushes in between the tackles and many other kinds of plays and tackles and then had refs and people in the room talk about whether that play should or would merit a flag going forward with the new rule change.

    Does anyone know if they do something like this when discussing and actually changing rules?

  21. This new rule is going to take away much of Earl Thomas’s ability to be an effective tackler. Watching him over the years I’ve always worried about him injuring himself as he nearly always lowers his head significantly as he makes a tackle.

  22. Pola Pe’a says:
    April 1, 2018 at 8:55 pm
    I guess run blocking will also be illegal because you go head to head on pretty much every running play.
    You don’t understand the rule

  23. It’s been my feeling for years that players go for the “big” hit, trying to knock the ball carrier of his feet, instead of making a solid tackle. It’s understood that you need to lower your head to make the tackle. But you don’t tackle with your head. You tackle with your shoulders and arms. Of course there will be times when tackler and ball carrier bang heads. Hopefully if it’s not intentional the refs won’t call it. I think the intention of the rule is to reduce “spearing”, which isn’t a bad thing.

  24. woodstakes says:
    April 1, 2018 at 3:34 pm
    owlbania says:
    April 1, 2018 at 2:06 pm
    Just don’t lead with your head Barry, hit with your shoulder pads.
    Don’t use your helmet as a weapon, it’s not hard to understand.


    Describe how one hits with one’s shoulder(s) without lowering one’s head…
    This might be a bit much to understand given what I’ve been reading here but, OK.
    Stand up straight and look at a spot on the wall. Now bending at the waist, lean forward but don’t take your eyes off that spot. I’m not sure about the anatomy on your planet but on earth our neck can articulate so that the head can stay vertical while the torso and shoulders attain a few degrees of inclination. The issue is lowering the face so as to lead with the crown of the helmet. If it’s still fuzzy I can draw some stick figures.

  25. Rules that complicated, impossible to referee and are endless !…will result in flags thrown so often that game continuity will be destroyed.[ it is close now] Defense has been all but taken out of the game!
    The NFL is so concerned about ” Perceived safety” and a stock of future players,that they have made the game unwatchable.Never mind the fact that it is now far too expensive for the average fan to attend games.This is all going to come to a head …we will soon have flag football that nobody will pay to watch ! Florio and others have said it…we need a new league that has players sign off on a contract with rules of play that were in place 50 years ago where the referees let the players play the game and defense was a major part of the drawing card.This product today is simply not worth watching !

  26. I am likely in the minority on this site but I think the outrage about this rule is a bit overblown. It comes from a good place – the evidence of CTE and other brain disorders is conclusive, and my entertainment isn’t worth someone’s life. But there will clearly not be “flags on every play” there is a reality that technique has devolved over the last 20-30 years where players put themselves at grave risk to make a highlight reel. I watched Darryl Stingley go down in 1978, and I saw Shazier go down last year. It needs to stop. The game will be fine, but more importantly for the raw meat fans that can’t seem to get enough of other people putting their health and safety on the line, maybe you should consider having to write the checks your body can’t cash.

    I’m in favor of player safety.

  27. I would also venture the guess that, if polled, the vast majority of players would prefer a head injury to an acl injury.
    I could not disagree more….have you ever worked w/TBI patients? I have, and I am here to tell you, between the headaches, visual disturbances, balance issues, there is no comparison. It is much easier, to repair LE injuries, than it is to fix head injuries.

  28. The league isn’t worried about “no pool of future players”,
    they’re worried about paying lawsuits for things like CTE.

    (Not really worried about player safety either, wink wink)

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