Payton: There will be fewer penalties for lowering the helmet than expected

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Saints coach Sean Payton also serves as a member of the Competition Committee. Thus, his recent visit to PFT Live also included questions regarding recent Competition Committee projects, including the new helmet rule, which generally prohibits lowering the helmet before initiating contact.

The new helmet rule continues to be cloaked in ambiguity. Will it dramatically change the game? Will the impact be limited? Mixed signals have come from the league in the weeks since the league abruptly, and surprisingly, passed the rule.

“I think you’re gonna see less of these penalties than you think,” Payton said. He also made it clear that the penalty will be called in cases where the player lowering his helmet has time to essentially line up the player who is struck with a piece of equipment that the league no longer wants players to use as a weapon.

“When we discussed the instances a year ago, it’s gonna be the obvious ones where there’s been plenty of time, if the player is approaching the tackle,” Payton said. “It’s gonna be those six or seven [incidents] from a year ago. Maybe even less than that. I don’t see that number being a tremendously high number, but we do feel like this posture, we have to remove from the game. Not the incidental portions of it but the ones where we truly can correct and teach from. It’s something that we’ll go through as a team here in our OTAs and minicamp.”

It’s still not clear whether and to what extent there will be a difference between situations where a penalty will be called and situations where an ejection will occur. Payton’s comments seem to indicate that there will be a gray area between what it takes to get flagged and what it takes to get sent to the showers.

“The good news is if the ejection is called on the field it will be reviewed always,” Payton said. “I think everyone, coaches, all of us felt like that’s gonna help us understand and get a good picture of whether it was egregious or not. The penalty is the penalty. If the penalty’s thrown and the decision is made not to eject then the penalty still stands. I think it’s a way for us to eliminate some of the hits where we’re really trying to remove, say take the helmet out of the game, but we’re really trying to take the helmet [aimed] down out of the game. Heads up or heads to the left or heads to the right but we don’t want that helmet in that position that increases both the tackler and the player being tackled their chance of injury.”

He still believes that, at the end of the day, the flag won’t be thrown all that often.

“The challenge I think for the officials sometimes is some of these hits are bang-bang,” Payton said. “We’ve seen that in the secondary and then you go back in the hits in the shoulder pad area. I don’t think it will be something that we will be looking at in the 20s or 30s. I think when the season’s over with that number will be smaller than most think. . . . Specifically there’s a timing element where it’s not bang-bang. But where I’ve got time here and I’ve continued to keep my head down here in this position. That’s where you run the risk of ejection.”

While that helps address concerns that the changes to the game will be significant, the fact remains that Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay has said that the changes will indeed be significant. If it’s too significant, fans and players will make their displeasure known. And if the question of when a flag will be thrown becomes too amorphous, many will argue that the officials have too much discretion to alter a game — especially with legalized gambling on the horizon.

However it plays out, everyone will need to get more information about the specifics of this rule before the games start.

9 responses to “Payton: There will be fewer penalties for lowering the helmet than expected

  1. “The new helmet rule continues to be cloaked in ambiguity.”

    Maybe we should get Payton on a football interview show and ask him directly what the new rule and how it would be applied.

    Nah, ain’t going to happen.

  2. How does a guy who gets suspended for paying money to his players for injuring opponents get to help make any rules? Payton and Gregg Williams should have been banned for life for what they did.

  3. I suspect Payton is right but hope he is wrong. Because the absolute WORST way for this to go down would be it being randomly and haphazardly enforced leading to conspiracy theories about the refs fixing games, etc. It’d be ugly to watch, but seeing tons of flags early in the season would either prompt changes in how guys play or showcase how the rule needed to be adjusted in order to prevent a flag on every play. But it being just another rule they occasionally enforce is totally the wrong way to go.

  4. How does a guy, suspended for a year because his team gave out bonuses for injuring opposing players, end up on the competition committee.

  5. There is a need for this rule, but it is to impose on the offense who has calculated they can get 15 free yards by the offensive player lowering his head to CREATE a helmet to helmet contact. The rule should impose a higher penalty onto the offensive player – 15 yards and an immediate ejection for flagrant rules violation by causing a helmet to helmet contact that would not have otherwise happened. The moment the offensive players start disappearing for their dirty play, the sooner there will be NO lowering of the helmet. Last year alone I saw three or four instances of dirty offensive players creating a defensive penalty because the offensive player lowered his head into the path of the defensive player.

  6. Competition committee seems to have alot of boneheads on it. Payton, Tomlin, Fisher used to be on it.

    BB isn’t on it which just about tells us everything we need to know.

  7. We all know and agree that by far, without any question or doubt whatsoever, that the MOST penalties for this will ALWAYS be called against any team NE is playing against. Another inside job by Kraft to get his way.

  8. How does a guy who gets suspended for paying money to his players for injuring opponents get to help make any rules? Payton and Gregg Williams should have been banned for life for what they did.
    Goodell’s predecessor Tags already came out and said Goodell should’ve never penalized one team for something that many teams have done in the past. Not one Saints opponent player injured in the 3 year so-called bounty period. Nuff said.

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