How much will the new helmet rule change football?

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The more I hear about the new helmet rule, the more concerned I am that NFL football will be changing so dramatically that it may become unrecognizable. Bit by bit, tweak by tweak, rule change by rule change, the game could — in the name of player safety, an admirable goal — become so safe that it fundamentally changes.

It’s an evolution that, when looking back over 20 years, feels more like a revolution. The NFL, after decades of denial regarding the risks of head trauma, apparently believes that the game must become safer in order to sustain its supply of players. At some point, however, fans of football the way it used to be played will feel alienated. And the risk isn’t that they’ll shun football; it’s that they’ll clamor for old-school football, and that a billionaire entrepreneur eventually will give it to them.

The latest step toward the far side of the Rubicon comes not from the changes to the kickoff rule (the kickoff is already dead, even if no one realizes it) but from the latest disclosure regarding the true extent of the new helmet rule. After two months of uncertainty, we now know that it applies not only in the open field but also in the trenches, where the task of sifting through bodies and spotting blows inflicted with a helmet on a consistent and fair basis becomes virtually impossible. Depending on how the rule ultimately is enforced, the between-the-tackles running game could wither, skewing the game even more toward glorified seven-on-seven drills.

Again, the goal is admirable. But football isn’t the only violent or risky endeavor. If the players willingly participate in the unsanitized version of the game (and at this point there’s no way any player can claim he doesn’t know the risks) and if fans willingly consume football as it historically has been played, is that a problem?

Apparently it is. Apparently the NFL thinks that parents will determine whether football is something that their children should play based not on the rules and realities of the youth version of the sport but on the images that emerge from the flat screen on Thursdays, Sundays, and Mondays.

For more on the helmet rule and my concerns regarding how it emerged and where it may be taking the game, check out the opening segment of Wednesday’s PFT Live.

25 responses to “How much will the new helmet rule change football?

  1. Well if they are actually planning to call the rule consistently then there are certain plays that the rule basically eliminates. QB sneaks, goal like plunges…..or how about a RB lowering his head to make contact with a defender in the secondary….

    This stuff basically goes away

  2. The more I hear about the rule changes, the less excited I am about the upcoming season. TV ratings are going to drop significantly this season.

  3. Would love to see the study / data that the NFL presented to the owners to get them to go along with all of these changes. They must have been very concerned about some conclusive data, otherwise they wouldn’t go along with big changes that could have an even bigger negative impact on their bottom line.

  4. Let’s see. One of TBs best moves is the 4th and one dive. Evidently the NFL has had enough of that so they’ve given the refs the authority to negate this play.

    I’m all for safety, but not considering the level of caprice offered up to the zebras to further derail certain teams.

  5. “Again, the goal is admirable. But football isn’t the only violent or risky endeavor. If the players willingly participate in the unsanitized version of the game (and at this point there’s no way any player can claim he doesn’t know the risks) and if fans willingly consume football as it historically has been played, is that a problem?” …..This is the best thing youve ever written. And no, its not a problem. There are 3 parties involved. The players, who know the risks, the fans that like football the way its been for decades, and the “safety above all” crowd. Why does the Safety crowd get to make the rules?

  6. donth8mecauseimwhite says:
    May 23, 2018 at 10:57 am
    Let’s see. One of TBs best moves is the 4th and one dive. Evidently the NFL has had enough of that so they’ve given the refs the authority to negate this play.

    I’m all for safety, but not considering the level of caprice offered up to the zebras to further derail certain teams.

    —————————————————-

    They already stole the Super Bowl, by changing the rules during that game. Can’t wait to see what kind of new, exciting ways they come up with to stop the Pats this year.

  7. Remember when Monday Night Football would start at 9:00pm? It was always the TWO teams HELMETS facing each other, and then slaming together in a great explosion!. Can’t DO THAT anymore either !!!

  8. It won’t matter until a team that isn’t liked is in the superbowl. This past superbowl, the NFL admitted was the first game they implemented changes to the catch rule. You’re never going to believe this, but it was to the Eagles advantageous and Patriots disadvantage twice!

    NFL: We’re just going to implement new catch rules in the biggest sports game of the year, not tell anyone, and have the calls go against the Patriots.

  9. They already stole the Super Bowl, by changing the rules during that game. Can’t wait to see what kind of new, exciting ways they come up with to stop the Pats this year.
    =====

    Really?

    Seems like the Pats stopped themselves well enough.

    .. and Brady has them off to a great start so far this year.

  10. The bigger story is how the NFL continues down the path of self-legislating their game out of existence. Clearly, their concern is future litigation but that doesn’t change the fact that currently there is nobody other than themselves forcing these unpopular, sport-altering rule changes. When the chickens come home to roost and the league is severely damaged they’ll have to look no further than the mirror to see who to blame.

  11. The rule really focuses on the top of the helmet. If you look at most collisions in the NFL, you’ll notice that a lot of them don’t involve the top of the helmet. How we define the “top” will be a key distinction that dictates how the rule plays out

  12. How long till they determine that its too dangerous for someone to have a football in their hands because all those mean guys on the other team are trying to tackle them?

    Soon it will be the National Competitive Line Dancing League

  13. If the new rule is called like it`s being explained i will still watch as a casual fan when there`s nothing else going on but certainly won`t be planning my day around glorified flag football or spending my money on tickets or gear.Watch how much closer the ratings between college and pro become.The NFL won`t look like a superior product anymore.

  14. I think we all need to calm down a bit. Granted, it’s been awhile since I last played high school ball but who blocks with the top of their helmet? That’s just terrible technique. Techniques of today utilize way more of the hands than when I was playing that I’m not certain it’s going to be that big of a deal. Keep your face up and I can’t believe the NFL would call it to the point of ruining their own game.

  15. Fourth and inches on the 25 yard line; 45 seconds left, Patriots down by four points to Bengals. Brady runs a qb sneak, meets a Burfict head to head in the hole. Ref throws the flag on Brady for leading with his helmet. Fifteen yards, Patriots lose. Fans from both sides wonder WTH happened. Gamblers get rich.

  16. They need to give the sport a new name. To call this football is a slight on the great game

  17. Watch football much? Linemen fire off the ball with their heads up (not down). This new rule won’t change the game as much as Chicken Little thinks.
    ——————————————————————————————-
    While true on normal plays it`s not on short yardage plays.Ever watch a QB sneak from the 1 with his head up? In goal line when the lowest lineman wins you don`t see their heads go down first? Watch again.

  18. Can`t wait for that Thursday night opener to see the first goal line stand look like groundhogs day and have off setting penalties 4 plays in a row before they decide to just throw it.Lol

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