In the first edition of Peter King’s Football Morning in America, NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron attempts to address concerns about the new helmet rules (and, yes, there are two of them, not one) by explaining that the new rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets and initiating contact will not lead to an “ejection-fest.”
That’s fine. That’s nice. But that’s hardly the primary reason to believe that potentially revolutionary changes to the game of football will happen as these two new helmet rules took root.
Ejections will indeed be rare. The real question is whether there will be a flag-fest (or a fine-fest) arising from violations of the new rule regarding lowering the helmet or the much broader (and much less noticed) expansion of the unnecessary roughness rule to prohibit any and all ramming, butting, or spearing with any portion of the helmet, without regard to whether the helmet was lowered or whether contact was initiated.
If these two new rules result in a flurry of flags, coaches will adjust. And the game will change, up to and including minimal or no use of the three-point stance. If these two new rules result in a flurry of fines, the game probably won’t change much? The coaches don’t pay the fines, the coaches want to win, and the coaches will continue to expect the game to be played a certain way, even if it hits the players in their bank accounts.
“We have had zero resistance from the coaches,” Riveron told King. That’s possibly happening because the coaches still don’t fully appreciate how aggressively these new rules will be enforced, and because they’re simply choosing to believe those who privately claim it won’t be a big deal.
Given the breadth of the new rules and the clear motivation to take the head out of the pro game so that mom and dad will let Jimmy play football at the youth level, I won’t believe it won’t be a big deal until it’s not a big deal.
And I have a nagging feeling it will indeed be a big deal.