Confusion continues regarding the two new helmet rules

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Roughly two months from the start of the regular season, and less than four weeks from the first preseason game, it’s still not clear how the NFL will enforce two new rules that apply to helmet use.

And, yes, there are two new rules. In addition to the much-publicized (after it was secretly passed) prohibition on lowering the helmet to initiate contact, the unnecessary roughness rule has been revised to ban not only ramming, butting, and spearing with any part the helmet in a violent or unnecessary manner but all ramming, butting, or spearing, with the only limitation being “incidental” helmet contact while performing “conventional” blocking and tackling maneuvers.

So what does it all mean? No one really knows for sure, including the coach of the team that employs the chairman of the Competition Committee.

As explained by Jenny Vrentas of SI.com, the NFL has produced via several of its coaches a series of six videos aimed at explaining the rule to players. One of the videos was produced by Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who seems to think he knows how the two new rules will be applied in the trenches. But it’s clear based on his comments that it’s not quite clear to him how the two new rules will work.

“I couldn’t see where it would be very likely called for the inside guys,” Quinn told Vrentas. “Not saying it couldn’t, but contact happens so quickly when two guys are in a stance across from one another, that it would be difficult.”

Shouldn’t Quinn know for sure at this point whether a foul will or won’t be called, especially when he has direct access to Rich McKay, who runs both the Falcons and the committee that surreptitiously crafted and submitted the lowering-the-helmet proposal nearly four months ago?

Maybe Quinn has asked McKay, and maybe McKay hasn’t been able to answer. According to Vrentas, McKay “said the league will study this season how the rule change may be able to impact interior line play.” That’s a careful and diplomatic way of acknowledging that (wait for it) no one knows what’s going to happen.

McKay apparently has an idea about what could happen, since he contends that the lowering-the-helmet rule implies intent. “Very rarely do you write a rule with some element of intent in the language, but that was purposeful,” McKay told Vrentas.

That’s fine, but why didn’t they purposefully add language that makes it clear that there’s an element of intent? Maybe they’re concerned that game officials can’t spot intent in real time. If so, that’s why McKay is absolutely correct when he says rules with “some element of intent” are written “[v]ery rarely.”

McKay believes, given the proximity of offensive and defensive linemen at the snap, that players won’t have the opportunity to lower the helmet and initiate contact. “In space, where there is distance between players, it’s easier to call — once you see that posture and it is to initiate the blow,” McKay told Vrentas. “You’re not doing that to initiate contact in much closer quarters.”

That’s fine, too, if the rule book had been revised only to transform 2013’s crown-of-the-helmet rule into the new lowering-the-helmet ban. It’s the change to the unnecessary roughness rule (which says nothing about lowering the helmet or initiating contact) that, if applied as written, gives credence to senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron’s observation from May that linemen will need to get their heads up.

Here’s the likely reality: No one really knows what’s going to happen. The end result will come from the push-and-pull between teams and the league office, as game officials try to enforce and apply both new rules through 65 preseason games and 256 regular-season games, and 11 postseason contests. It will be a work in progress, a trial-and-error proposition, as everyone understands how the words in the rule book will transform into fouls, ejections, suspensions, and/or non-calls.

Here’s the real question: Is this the correct way to run a billion-dollar sports league? With legalized gambling beginning to spread throughout the country, a make-it-up-as-we-go vibe will be subject to the desires of those who want things to go in a certain way, to advance their own agendas. And the most important constituency in this regard continues to be whoever engineered the sudden adoption of the lowering-the-helmet rule with no advance discussion and the sudden appearance of the revised unnecessary roughness rule with no advance notice, because that still-unknown constituency seems to be nudging the sport toward major changes, like the abandonment of the three-point stance.

“There has been discussion of that and will continue to be, but I don’t [think we are there] yet,” McKay said regarding the possible elimination of the hand-in-the-dirt posture that helps make football football. “That’s almost to me like when people said the kickoff was definitely going away five years ago. We will evolve, and come up with rules and techniques to respond to the injury data as we get it. But we don’t make wholesale changes in the game just to make them.”

First, people still think the kickoff is definitely going away. Second, the evolution of safety-related rules changes has become a revolution since the national concussion epiphany of October 2009. Third, McKay admits that the NFL will make “wholesale changes” to the game if they think “wholesale changes” are justified by “the injury data.”

Of course, it’s more than just “the injury data.” It’s about presenting a product on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays that keeps mothers and fathers from turning to their sons and saying, “Jimmy, you’re never playing football.”

37 responses to “Confusion continues regarding the two new helmet rules

  1. Once again Rog fumbles.
    Maybe one day the NFL will obtain a Commish that CAN execute well.
    That’d be nice.
    Cue the Mrs’ thumbs down(s)…

  2. Let’s just simplify the whole thing. No helmets. Not necessary since there will be no tackling, just flags hanging out of the belts. Finally turns the NoFunLeague into a sport the whole family can enjoy. And why not make touching the quarterback an automatic ejection?

  3. This makes absolutely zero sense. Like holding, it can be called on every single play. Like holding, it appears to get called at the worst possible times in some games, affecting scoring opportunities. My very wise grandpa once said “this is all fake, once there is this much money involved, you are guaranteed these games are rigged”. In today’s world of fake everything, this seems to fit perfectly. This could be my last year of watching the NFL, after 45 years.

  4. Tell you what, I played an entire career of football, up into my early 30s in semipro, and I had no idea it was against the rules to initiate helmet to helmet contact until like a year ago, lmao. I used to be kind of known for getting in fights on the field a lot, everyone thought I was crazy, but in my mind I was just responding to an angry opponent. Turns out I was starting most of them with cheap shots the whole time, but I was always a head-hitter, not a shoulder-hitter, but I legit thought that was fine. Like “I have a helmet, you have a helmet…why would we NOT make that the point of contact?” Whoops, hahahaha… Bad job by the refs not calling that for like 20 years, lmao.

  5. “Why the two orders? If your orders are always followed, why the two orders? Colonel? You had Markinson sign a phony transfer, you doctored the Wells Report!

    Colonel Jessup, did you order the framejob against Brady and the Pats like you framed them for Spygate?!

    Colonel?”

  6. There’s a simple answer to this continuation of the ruining of a once-great game with complicated rules that nobody understands: Put WiFi contact sensors in every helmet. If one helmet touches a helmet belonging to an opposing team member, a computer in New York will immediately play several bars of the national anthem and a foul will be called with an accompanying penalty. These simple and elegant technological solution will make the jobs of the new refs easy and uncontroversial. Concussions will go down, especially when the same contact sensor technology is implemented in uniforms. Indeed, the knee sensors will go off when knees touch opposing players OR the turf. Consequently, knee injuries will diminish if not disappear altogether.

    Once all the above goes into effect, it should be about time for the new WWE football league to crank up. That’s when we can stop watching NFL patty cake games and begin watching real football without all these crazy new rules that are so complicated they’d give Einstein a headache.

    Geesh, what the hell is going on with the NFL? #SAD

  7. The outcome of games can and will be decided by these vague new rules, which is what the league wants. Hell, we still don’t know what a catch is.

  8. THIS…is the rule that will finally destroys the NFL. As soon as they start throwing a ton more flags than they already do to slow down the game even further and add more commercial breaks (it’s already infuriating) there’s a very good chance I will simply lose interest and stop watching sooner rather than later. No matter what teams we all root for I think we can all agree that it’s just about at the breaking point. I’m all for player safety but the incompetence from the NFL league office is laughable. Just when you think they’ll simplify the catch rule and get back to real football, they decide to screw it up all over again with a new rule or two that the refs will NEVER be able to enforce because it’s senseless and arbitrary. I remember when I used to really look forward to training camp and a new season every summer. Those days are gone. What a shame. I love football as much as the rest of you guys so I’m seriously considering more college and start up leagues.

  9. richndc says:
    July 9, 2018 at 8:55 am
    This makes absolutely zero sense. Like holding, it can be called on every single play. Like holding, it appears to get called at the worst possible times in some games, affecting scoring opportunities. My very wise grandpa once said “this is all fake, once there is this much money involved, you are guaranteed these games are rigged”. In today’s world of fake everything, this seems to fit perfectly. This could be my last year of watching the NFL, after 45 years.

    12 2 Rate This

    ——————

    it makes perfect sense. goodell wants to be able to manipulate games. some might call it institutionalized cheating. you know, like he did in the super bowl, giving away 14 points for philly by leaving grey area or by just telling refs to ignore penalties.

    this all started with the pi calls in 2006 where there was empahsis if one team was trailing in a game. goodel is constantly trying to get partiy and keep it

  10. I’m waiting for the first fraud lawsuit against the officials and the league when someone loses a big bet as a result of a bad call, then finds a connection to the league or an official with a gambler as a result of the bad call. The sad thing is, watching the lawsuit may end up being more fun than watching the games at the rate it is going.

  11. speicher145 says:

    July 9, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Perhaps it’s to make games easier to fix? And people wonder why all these veteran referees are stepping down…

    ————————-
    Confusion = manipulation of the game depending on who the league wants to win game

  12. golions1 says:
    July 9, 2018 at 10:04 am
    I’m waiting for the first fraud lawsuit against the officials and the league when someone loses a big bet as a result of a bad call, then finds a connection to the league or an official with a gambler as a result of the bad call. The sad thing is, watching the lawsuit may end up being more fun than watching the games at the rate it is going.

    ———————

    Considering there have been ample opportunities for this to have already happened since Goodell took over in 2006, it will never happen because there is no a legal precedent that Goodell can do whatever he wants under the guise of “Article 46”.

    For years, I couldn’t quite figure out why it kept happening, and even though people hate the Pats longstanding success, the PAts have been victimized not only by framejobs to paint something as sinister, they’ve been railroaded on the field many. many times in conference title games and in SBs.

    So, the fact Goodell had to admit HOW he was cheating the Pats for Deflategate, outside of the obvious reasons why, here we are seeing it manifest itself in other ways.

    The only good thing to come out of Deflategate, outside of a victory for the Eagles in SB 52, with the Pats’ 1st and 4th rd picks stolen and nowhere available to play in the game itself, is the fact that Goodell was forced to admit WHY he thinks it’s legal to cheat in these games with Article 46.

    Every fan has issues with certain games, but when you look at creepy out of the woodwork calls that don’t even jive with the rules themselves, that’s on a whole other level.

    This rule will be designed to fix games, absolutely no question about it, hence why there is already confusion about it.

    Look at the other sports leagues. Nary a whisper of “issues” such as this. Gee, I wonder why ratings are plummeting?

  13. Will the refs finally flag Brady for head-butting the defender who just sacked him? I think we already know the answer to that, don’t we? CHEATERS.

  14. bannedfromchoirpractice says:
    July 9, 2018 at 10:54 am
    Will the refs finally flag Brady for head-butting the defender who just sacked him? I think we already know the answer to that, don’t we? CHEATERS.

    1 1 Rate This

    ———————

    Please cite this example. When Brett Favre “headbutted” someone and got in their grill, were there flags?

  15. tylawspick6 says:
    July 9, 2018 at 11:02 am

    bannedfromchoirpractice says:
    July 9, 2018 at 10:54 am
    Will the refs finally flag Brady for head-butting the defender who just sacked him? I think we already know the answer to that, don’t we? CHEATERS.

    ———————

    Please cite this example. When Brett Favre “headbutted” someone and got in their grill, were there flags?

    _______

    Brady should be flagged for his Hissy Fits alone. That is the difference between Favre and Brady.

  16. I have said it berore, and will say it again. I am done with the NFL. They have taken it to the point of being able to determine the outcome of every game and add an extra hour of commercials to every broadcast. See ya, BYE.

  17. The rule is not meant to eliminate interior line play as we know it. It’s to eliminate Ryan Shazier type plays. Let’s see how they officiate preseason games before calling it the end of football.

  18. M. Flo is right on as usual. Can we draw some parallels from big tobacco trying to keep kids trying cigarettes? The difference here is that tobacco trying to make smoking safer. Will football go the way of the cigarette because of safety concerns?

  19. The more the NFL puts game outcomes in the hands of the referees, the more unwatchable the games become.

  20. Marc Taylor says:

    July 9, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    M. Flo is right on as usual. Can we draw some parallels from big tobacco trying to keep kids trying cigarettes? The difference here is that tobacco trying to make smoking safer. Will football go the way of the cigarette because of safety concerns?
    —————————
    In order for the “big tobacco” comparison to be a valid comparison, we would need fines paid to a certain political party.
    I’m sure it’s happening, we just don’t know it yet.

  21. “Brady should be flagged for his Hissy Fits alone. That is the difference between Favre and Brady.” hahahahahahaha yeah that and a bunch of rings….

  22. Is that “Major Development” about to drop yet?
    Cuz we’ve been told for a month now that “someone was going to Dime out the NFL.”

    Have I missed it??

  23. Please cite this example. When Brett Favre “headbutted” someone and got in their grill, were there flags?
    ======

    It was a mans game then.

    And he only did that to his teammates. So why would he be flagged?

  24. Actually, a penalty of one kind or another, can be called on every play; it just depends on the mood and motivation on the refs. And in time, more refs will be abolished from officiating certain games just as Gene Steratore was dismissed from all Steeler games (remember his calling a TD in favor of the Steelers when it was clearly evident there was no TD and it decided the outcome of the game). I once had the nickname of “TwoDimes” because of my financial interest in NFL games. But over the last few years, I am now just betting a chocolate chip cookie, or maybe two, on a game now and then. The front office, through its game officials, will control winners and losers of games.

  25. it’s a vague rule to the refs can still tamper with games and help determine the outcome. there is a lot of money involved here. do you really think the NFL is going to let the players decide the game? C’mon, man!

  26. .
    INCIDENTAL???
    They NEVER EVER used that term with defenders incidentally coming in contact with bradys helmet…
    the slightest INCIDENTAL touch to bradys helmet was flagged as a BLOW TO THE HEAD.
    So how do we flip that around???
    I can guarantee if a defenders helmet REMOTELY touches any precious part of bradys body it will be flagged as spearing..

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