More information emerges regarding the new helmet rule

Getty Images

Nearly two months after the NFL surprisingly passed a rule that, as written, broadly prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact, the eventual impact of the rule on the game remains to be seen. In part because the precise contours of the rule remain undefined.

Bit by bit, more information regarding the new rule is emerging. On Friday, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent answered questions on Twitter regarding the new helmet rule, and his first few answers confirmed that the new rule will have two clear tiers of enforcement: a 15-yard penalty and an ejection.

According to Vincent, a player “may be ejected” if he “lowers his head to establish a linear body posture prior to making contact with the head, has an unobstructed path to his opponent, and could have avoided contact.” The video attached to the tweet contains two examples of players making ejection-worthy hits: the 2017 helmet impact by Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan on Packers receiver Davante Adams and a helmet-first hit from a 2015 Monday night game by Falcons safety William Moore on Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews.

Vincent explained that the league looked at more than 40,000 plays from the 2017 season, and that only three ejections were identified.

Separately, Vincent confirmed that, under the new helmet rule, a foul occurs “if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.” Vincent demonstrates the point with video of a 2017 hit from Chiefs safety Ron Parker on Patriots receiver Danny Amendola.

It’s far closer to a bang-bang play, but Parker definitely had a chance to not plow helmet first into Amendola. And even if that play triggers a foul but not an ejection, it’s situation in which 15 yards will adjust based on a maneuver that, as of last year, was legal.

Which means that, as of 2018, the new helmet rule creates two levels of infraction. For something closer to bang-bang, a foul will be called, akin to the penalty for hitting a defenseless receiver in the head/neck area. For something that entails more time for the player to line up and attack with his helmet, it will be both a penalty and an ejection.

It won’t be a penalty, as Vincent has confirmed, if the player lowers his helmet not to initiate impact but to brace for it. That could make the rule even harder to officiate, with players colliding their helmets and a real-time decision being made regarding whether one was initiating it and whether the other was bracing for it.

Which brings into question, once again, the question of whether the new helmet rule will change the between-the-tackles running game, where plenty of players routinely dip their helmets as they try to create holes, collapse blocking plans, gain yardage, and make tackles. The league has still yet to explain that specific wrinkle.

So, basically, there’s still a long way to go before this new rule and its implications can be fully and properly understood. The sooner everyone knows precisely what is and isn’t allowed, the better.

37 responses to “More information emerges regarding the new helmet rule

  1. One step closer to the NFL being irrelevant. The refs have zero credibility as it is and now you want to give them more power to botch calls and influence games at goodells direction.

  2. Just another season with increased controversial calls taking over the news……..

  3. if they want to take helmet to helmet hits out of the game, take away the helmets, or at least go back to leather “helmets”, then people will think twice before they duck their head.

  4. It’s gonna be a disaster worse than the Is that a catch nonsense that ruined the outcome of games. It’s going to now be a tough season to enjoy now.

  5. Seems pretty simple to me…just think if it as the college targeting rule. Everyone who is looking for an exhaustive, completely comprehensive explanation is just wanting to nitpick. Assault the guy, it’s a penalty…normal football hit, move on to the next play.

  6. Line the helmets with tannerite. That’ll stop it eventually AND be exciting in the meantime.

  7. They would be hard-pressed to write a more confusing rule that can be interpreted any damn way they want to in the moment.

  8. With these rules Walter Payton would never have been able to finish a game. The clowns running this league are so reactionary.

  9. darthobama says:
    May 18, 2018 at 6:43 pm
    Seems pretty simple to me…just think if it as the college targeting rule. Everyone who is looking for an exhaustive, completely comprehensive explanation is just wanting to nitpick. Assault the guy, it’s a penalty…normal football hit, move on to the next play.

    …………………

    Agreed. We’re making too much of this. The League knows this has a potential to ruin the game if taken to literally. You folks honestly think they want that? We all know when a head leading spear is egregious. It’ll be fine. Except when it’s borderline. When that’s the case, tough beans.

  10. You will eliminate most of those type hits if you eliminate the cage facemask.Those pretty boys won’t want to mess up their faces. A couple guys lose their eyeballs and watch those “unavoidable” hit decrease. It will not completely eliminate them. That is the nature of football. Some things are unavoidable but making them a penalty doesn’t help the guy who got nailed anyway. But it is a far better solution than more inconsistent judgement calls that affect the outcome of the game. All of the newest rule changes are lawyer rules. You know..where they make simple things as confusing and complicated a possible.

  11. oldguy22 says:
    May 18, 2018 at 8:04 pm
    That’s it! I’ve seen my last nfl game. Sorry sponsors. I won’t see your commercials any more.

    ************************************************

    NBC pays a lot of money to air NFL games. Why? So they can sell ads to “sponsors.”

    Where do you think you are, exactly?

  12. It’s not that hard to understand. The purpose of a helmet is to protect the player, not to be used as a weapon. Use it as a weapon and your ejected.

  13. So now they have to determine if a player is “initiating” contact or “bracing” for it? Wow, that is going to be the most subjective call in all of sports. It’s gonna be anybody’s guess how it’s called on any given play because how do you judge intent?

  14. Make the helmets better or get rid of them all together. There will be far less headhunting that’s for sure.

  15. LOVE FOOTBALL! But with the betting becoming legal and giving the refs (whom already suc) more power to blotch eerrr
    make calls in THEIR favor to help pocket coin is making the NFL into WWF and WWE. This crap will be FAKE with in 10 years tops. Heck I bet that it is FAKE already, proof the eagles won ONE FINALLY AFTER 57 YEARS!!!!!!!!!

  16. Defenders will have to stand upright, while getting trucked by running backs.

  17. This seems like another convenient way for the league to tilt games towards their desired outcome, by saying, hey it’s the rule. One that is wildly open to interpretation. So basically the bad/mediocre teams will stay the same and the Patriots, Packers or whatever the league flavor of the year is, will walk into the post season. Awesome, or not!

  18. In my mind we could clear this up easy. Is the Malcolm Jenkins hit on Cooks in the Superbowl illegal or not. There was helmet to helmet contact but it wasnt intentionally led with his helmet. He led with his shoulder but Cooks ran him and there helmets hit. If they say if that play is illegal or not I think it would clear things up.

  19. I am glad I an 69 years old. I watched, and enjoyed NFL football on TV and in person for over 50 years. But I am done. The refs now control the outcome of every game.
    Thanks
    It’s been glad knowing ya

    Signed. Ex fan.

  20. It’s actually not that hard to figure out. They’re are trying to officiate between intent and normal play of the game. As someone stated above, its the bang-bang plays that will be muddled.

    1. normal play would be something like the RB running at the 1 for a TD where he lowers
    himself to gain optimal leverage, but not meaning to actually ‘go at’ a specific
    player.

    2. intent would be something like a safety who positions himself to target or attack or
    ‘go at’ the head or neck. I’m sure that we all could find more than 3 that we would
    consider eject-able.

    3. something that shouldn’t be called is something like a safety coming up to make a big
    tackle on a RB for the same reason as 1.

    its a violent game, and i think we all want to keep it that way to a certain extent, but there’s no reason not to protect players where we can.

    makes about as much sense as playing paintball with an approved mask.

  21. So running backs who play like Adrian Peterson did at his best could be penalised, as he usually initiated contact and some defenders were the ones bracing themselves for the hit.

    Simply make the helmets less safe and players will stop doing it.

  22. I realize that the NFL wants more scoring because “Offense is the better show”, but this seems like tackling is now illegal. Those mocking jokes about the NFL becoming Flag Football aren’t all that far-fetched now are they?

  23. I think the NFL committees are having a contest to see how many more rules in football they can make as convoluted and nonsensical as the catch rule.

  24. pubesoap says:
    May 18, 2018 at 7:18 pm
    darthobama says:
    May 18, 2018 at 6:43 pm
    Seems pretty simple to me…just think if it as the college targeting rule. Everyone who is looking for an exhaustive, completely comprehensive explanation is just wanting to nitpick. Assault the guy, it’s a penalty…normal football hit, move on to the next play.

    …………………

    Agreed. We’re making too much of this. The League knows this has a potential to ruin the game if taken to literally. You folks honestly think they want that? We all know when a head leading spear is egregious. It’ll be fine. Except when it’s borderline. When that’s the case, tough beans
    ________

    That’s what I thought until I watched the linked video of Ron Parker making a good tackle on Danny Amendola on a five yard slant on third and six.

  25. The rule will not punish those bracing for impact, but only those initiating?

    So this will basically be just for defensive players. Got it.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.