NFL fact sheet on new helmet rule

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Editor’s note: The NFL distributed this fact sheet on its new helmet rule on August 1, 2018.


The Rule: As approved by NFL clubs in March, it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. Contact does not have to be to an opponent’s head or neck area – lowering the head and initiating contact to an opponent’s torso, hips, and lower body, is also a foul. Violations of the rule will be easier to see and officiate when they occur in open space – as opposed to close line play – but this rule applies anywhere on the field at any time.

Penalties for Violation: Loss of 15 yards. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down. The player may also be ejected. Ejection standards:

1. Player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet
2. Unobstructed path to his opponent
3. Contact clearly avoidable and player delivering the blow had other options


NFL Way to Play is an educational series about proper use of the helmet to protect players from unnecessary risk and to foster culture change across all levels of football.
Emphasis on Stance, Posture, and Technique
* Knees Bent
* Pads Down
* Hands First
* Head Up and Out of the Way

Coaches/Players/Legends speak to technique and fundamentals
Head Coach Videos: Todd Bowles, Anthony Lynn, Doug Marrone, Dan Quinn, and Mike Vrabel volunteered to create position-specific videos to assist in educating coaches and players on position-based applications of the new rule. The videos provide coaching points of emphasis to execute proper technique:

Ball Carriers Video: Head Coach Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers
Offensive Line Video: Head Coach Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars
Defensive Line Video: Head Coach Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons
Linebackers Video: Head Coach Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans
Defensive Backs Video: Head Coach Todd Bowles, New York Jets

Former Player Videos: Additionally, several former players have also created videos on the new rule:
Willie Lanier Video
Curtis Martin Video
Willie McGinest Video

Educational sessions were held with coaches May 1-2 in New York. Webinars and conference calls with all 32 coaching staffs were held May 16-17. Officiating sessions with players are occurring during training camps.


A comprehensive review of data and video demonstrated the increased risk associated with lowering the head to align the neck and spine before initiating contact. This behavior puts both the player making the contact and the player being struck at greater risk of injury.

Why the Rule?
* Conforms to modern coaching methods and reflects the most up-to-date science and medical knowledge
* Protects players from unnecessary risk and reduces injuries
* Proper use of helmets has long been a part of NFL rules
* Intent is for the helmet to be used strictly as a protective piece of equipment
* Works hand-in-hand with efforts to improve the protective quality of helmets
* Promotes culture change across all levels of football to remove the head from the game

How – Our Process
* Research/Science/Data (Science and Data Video)
* Engineering
* Input from Players/Legends, Coaches, Officials, GMs, and Owners
* College football analytics

For more information, please review the complete 2018 Rules Changes and Points of Emphasis video or visit or

36 responses to “NFL fact sheet on new helmet rule

  1. I will never forget Browner hitting Green perfectly in December of 2014 in SD, shoulder to shoulder, where McCoirty ended up with a pick 6 and it was called by Goodell’s stooges.

    Just digusting to see how Goodell will use rules and grey areas to cheat. Heck, even if there aren’t grey areas, he’s cheated.

  2. The why is to control betting lines and control outcomes. Nothing more and nothing less. Billions are at stake, this simply is money the NFL needs to control.

  3. The NFL is starting to see kids no longer playing football in the same numbers as before. The NFL thinks it is due to the violence of the game. That is not the only reason.

    The NBA is beginning to erode the NFL’s popularity on the sports landscape. Younger people today would rather watch and play basketball.

    What is also a factor is the clown show that is the NFL. Specifically, but not limited to, the Commissioner’s suspension of players after slipshod investigations. He looks like a fool. It’s the keystone cops over and over. People are tired of the constant drama too.

    I listen to sports talk radio and it used to be dominated by the NFL, the NBA is now talked about almost as much it seems.

    The NFL has a problem with it’s commissioner and constant drama that slowly drives people away and erodes the popularity. This is the first year in a long time I will no longer purchase the NFL Sunday Ticket. I kinda don’t care anymore.

  4. This is going to be an absolute circus. Completely subjective calls, even more flags, more reviews, slower game, less contact, defensive players afraid to make hits.

    The NFL is digging their own grave.

  5. while their may be a lot of flags in the beginning, players will adapt and get used to the new rules. This is what is taught in NFL flag. And this might have a chance to save a game that will eventually go away. I know very few parents that are willing to allow their children to play football due to the concussion problem. If it continues, its only a matter of time before the quality of play in the league is to a point that nobody wants to watch it.

  6. Too many flags already. This will create a yellow field, at least early in the season while teams get used to it. I hope the league will have some leeway with the officials upfront where instead of flagging non-flaggrant or aggressive hits the refs can tell a player that will be flagged in the future.

  7. The NFL is basically trying to shield itself from lawsuits with this rule. I doubt it will work, but they have to try or they’ll be sucked dry.

    I’m convinced the real threat to all pro sports is the trend to E sports. As difficult as that is for me to believe, far more kids grow up playing electronic games than any type of traditional sport, or even X sports. The growth in less than a decade has been incredible, and I don’t see it slowing down. It’s what millennials relate to, not physical games like I grew up with.

  8. These rules are ridiculous, sign a waiver knowing long term effects and risks of the game and that’s that!!!……90% of football players would sign it.

  9. Why don’t they just go ahead and attach flags to the players and go with the Flag Football rules? That’s the direction this is heading anyways.

  10. The running back has his head down, the defender has his head down, do they both get flagged if the make contact?

  11. If the NFL wants to make the game safer it needs to think about game-swinging consequences for fouls. Loss of down, ejection, and fines may not result in making the game safer as none of these penalties have the ability to rapidly change the course of the game. Only, real-time consequences, such as points to the offense, if the penalty is on a defensive player, or the equivalent of a turnover, if the penalty is on an offensive player, will make players adjust the way they play.

    Momentum swings games. So, if the NFL wants to change how players play in real-time, the consequences need to be more immediate as well.

  12. “Conforms to modern coaching methods and reflects the most up-to-date science and medical knowledge”

    Hilarious statement from the science denying league office which considers 5th grade science some sort of magical voodoo

  13. So basically, any tackle by the defense is a 15 yard penalty and a FIRST Doowwnn…

    Has anybody seen a tackle made by the defense with his head up?
    You have to tackle with your head down to use your shoulder.


  14. This sheet is the theory – in practice the Steelers will get away with murder as usual.

  15. Roger is a puppet and his masters have spoken. The lawyers have scared the league out of their minds with liability/lawsuits/losses. Until they start losing ratings and revenues with paying customers/fans however, this kind of non-sense will continue. History will record last season and this season as the beginning of the end. And I say good riddance. There are more important things to do with our time and money than support the NFL

  16. how are rules forcing players to use their helmets in specific ways on the field OK, but forcing them to stand for the national anthem a bridge too far?

  17. I will tell you if these rules are enforced the way they are described in the video (The Running Back Video by Anthony Lynn) the NFL is going to be a mess. How is runner supposed to protect his knees when the defender is taught to go low ? The defender goes low and you are taught to dip your head to absorb the initial contact to hopefully keep defender off your legs to continue to run. The flat back head down that he describes over and over in the video is inevitable by a runner going through a hole especially after the first defender goes low or grabs an ankle and trips the runner up somewhat ,so the most likely position by the time the second defender is getting in on the tackle the RB because he is being tripped up will be in a flat back head down position .

  18. I watched the DB video narrated by Todd Bowles. The images are too far away and too fast and you can’t clearly see what is wrong. You need zoomed in pictures played in slow motion for these to be instructive.

  19. Well, we will see how it plays out but I do like the rule. I do appreciate the level of danger involved in this sport that I love and have followed since the 60’s. I still expect to see bone-jarring hits.

  20. For those who dont like the helmet rule, ask Ryan Shazier what he thinks of it. Why do people complain about a rule designed to reduce head and spinal injuries? What are you all, injury lawyers?

  21. As is usually the case, I fear that the real problem will be in the referees who make these calls arbitrarily and don’t fully understand the rules. Since their actions will potentially change the tempo of the game and their mistakes could be extremely costly, this seems to be merely a legal maneuver by the NFL to attempt to show they’ve done their “due diligence” by going through the motions to help protect against injury claims down the road.
    There is already a rule about spearing that covers using the helmet as a weapon so what will this actually accomplish?
    When a rule is so vague/complicated that nobody understands it and it takes webinars and videos to “educate” it’s meaning (can’t be communicated in a language easily understood), it’s a recipe for disaster and more negative blow back from fans who see their teams “cheated”.
    Football is getting to be a joke and the NFL is it’s own worst enemy. Fans are tired of the watered down game, the politics and drama, and the climate of restrictiveness in a sport that in previous years was a favorite form of escape and entertainment. The NFL’s constant rhetoric about the dangers associated with playing the game is driving young kids away from the sport to play other sports that, in reality are no safer. The NBA, Soccer, MLB, Hockey, all have managed to continue at a fast pace level that is entertaining to fans without gutting the heart of their sports…are they just smarter?

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