The disconnect continues regarding the impact that coaches expect the new helmet rules to have and the impact the new helmet rules actually will have.
Jets coach Todd Bowles on Thursday shrugged at the changes, hours before everyone got a taste of the number of flying yellow flags the changes will cause.
“We teach it the right way and they play the right way,” Bowles told reporters. “It’s really teaching football to be played the right way. There are going to be hard collisions, but if the helmet’s up, and you have to keep the helmet out of the way and hit with the shoulder, which most of the team do all the time, there’s an occasional head-to-head when someone’s putting their head down, but we don’t teach it any differently. We feel like we’ve been teaching it the right way the whole time.”
Of course, it’s hard to teach the new rules when it remains unclear whether the new rules will be applied as written.
“We understand the rule and the education of it,” Bowles said. “I think it’s more for the officials to call than the teams to have. We understand what the ruling is, but again we’re teaching it the right way, and we’re not trying to teach it that way at all, so it shouldn’t affect us. There may be a mistake here or there but we try to avoid that as much as possible.”
Still, as the Hall of Fame game showed, when the teaching ends and the games begin, instinct and muscle memory come together and prompt players to drop their helmets when bracing for contact. So the question becomes whether — and when — the flags, fines, ejections, and suspensions will help players unlearn techniques that, apparently, they never were taught.
Based on Thursday’s game between the Bears and the Ravens, the answers so far are no and not yet.