The truth about the lowering the helmet rule may be hiding in plain sight

Getty Images

As the effort to understand the most prominent new helmet rule continues, here’s a thought: Why not simply give the rule the plain and obvious meaning of the words used to articulate it?

The new rule is simple: “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.” If it seems broad, that’s because it is broad. And as officials try to figure out how to apply it, there’s really nothing to figure out. If a player lowers his head to initiate contact with his helmet and makes contact with his helmet, it’s a foul.

There’s no requirement that the lowering of the head be prolonged or that the contact have a certain force or aggression. That’s what surprised Sunday Night Football rules analyst Terry McAulay, who was still a referee when he first became aware of the new rule.

“They didn’t put in the words forcible or punishing,” McAulay said regarding his first reaction to the new rule during a Tuesday visit to the #PFTPM podcast. “That was a real surprise to me that they went as far as they did right off the bat.”

The manner in which this rule was slipped onto the list of the Competition Committee’s proposals for the annual league meeting, with the rule change not disclosed to the media along with the other proposals and not even mentioned in any way until the vote to adopt it was final, reinforces the idea that, no matter what coaches previously have been told, the rule will be applied — shocker — as it is written.

So even if referees are erring on the side of throwing flags during the preseason, they may find out when getting feedback from the league office that they’re doing the right thing. Which would then confirm that someone wanted to revolutionize the game with a rule that ostensibly is aimed only at keeping the helmet from deliberately being used as a weapon but that will, based on the 21 words used to craft it, sweep much more broadly, forcing the helmet out of the game completely.

63 responses to “The truth about the lowering the helmet rule may be hiding in plain sight

  1. I’ve already explained this: It is a way for Goodell to cheat. Lawyers love to use grey area as a way of making an argument as to why something should be the way it should be.

    If it was black and white, like the 3 year old, very clear catch rule we just saw work so well (even if Goodell cheated in the SUper Bowl by announcing the rule would be altered in the offseason BEFORE THE GAME WAS PLAYED OR THE RULE CHANGE WAS VOTED ON, even though there is no way if it was James WHite in the back of that end zone, and not Corey Clement, there is no question that would have been ruled incomplete), Goodell wants options. His job is to find a way to prove parity to get investors and sponsors comfortable over in London and beyond.

    And, right now, with the PAas likely winning a 10th straight division title and going to their 8th straight conf title game, there is no genuine parity.

    Everyone knows it and BB/Brady are embarrassing other owners, annually.

    I will be money that numerous Pats players will be victimized by this new rule, even though the players are the best coached and smartest, cohesive group in the NFL.

    Goodell sells something one way, but his goal is really something else, and he will cheat right in front of the NFL customer to get what he wants.

  2. seems pretty obvious . . . the nfl teaches youth league coaches all the time . . . heads up tackling . . . its not too difficult to understand . . . using your head a a spear is dangerous to all players . . . why is everyone having such an issue with this?

  3. People don’t get it, and I don’t blame them because the league can’t or won’t explain it properly. The purpose of the helmet rule is not only to protect the person getting hit, it’s to protect the person giving the hit. Lowering your head going into a hit is extremely dangerous to YOU. If you lower your head and hit something or someone, it doesn’t need to be extreme or violent to cause you serious injury.

    I played football for 10 years, and rugby for 25 years after that, and nearly every locker room from pee wee through high school had signs saying “SEE WHAT YOU HIT” or some variation thereof. We were ALWAYS taught not to lower our head when going in for a tackle because we could wind up in a wheelchair.

    Every football player knows, or should know, to keep their head and eyes up when tackling. This is not a new idea.

  4. Look im not the conspiracy guy

    But this rule being so vague n broad only puts more power into the refs hands to decide football games and im not cool with that.

    The rules are supposed to be clear and concise, we shouldnt be making the refs think or decide if somethings a foul.

    Guy moved early on the line? penalty.

    Guy wasnt lined up properly? penalty, etc.

    We all thought the catch rule was awful but wait till theres an average of 15+ penalties called per team on a weekly basis. (for perspective the average # of penalties called the last dozen or so years is around 5-6 per game)

    Just what we needed, 4 hour football games.

  5. By now, most reasonable people can see that the helmet hits increase the likelihood of developing horrible diseases in the future. It is good that the NFL is trying to protect is players.

    For those that think “RIP Football as we know it” you are wrong. Helmet hits are not why we tune in, it’s the situational football that hooks is, right? 3rd and 4 at the opponents 35 yrd line. Is it a run or pass, play action? Play it safe since we’re in field goal range, what’s the score?

    That anticipation isn’t going away with the helmet rule, so stop the hyperbole “flag football” comments.

  6. tylawspick6 says:
    August 8, 2018 at 9:51 pm
    I’ve already explained this: It is a way for Goodell to cheat.
    ___________
    Patsie* fan lecturing on cheating…..classic.

  7. I believe there should e a hybrid helmet that is a cross between the modern NFL helmet and ,,don’t laugh the old leather style ,,something that protects but does not double as a weapon and is only equipped with the old two bar style cage ,you will organically start to take the head out of the play !

  8. I don’t see the rule as complicated. It may be broad, but its not vague. Lower and hit with your head = flag. I like that, there is no judgment to be made by the ref. Was it a hard hit or not? Don’t matter, he lowered his head. Like mentioned above, guy moved = penalty. Guy lined up wrong, penalty. He grabbed the facemask or he didn’t. Refs shouldn’t judge intent whenever possible. Player did it or he didn’t.

  9. They could just about have a penalty on almost every play. Your head is attached to your shoulders, so as players lower their shoulders, refs are going to interpret that as a player lowering their helmet when they may have hit with their shoulder.

  10. jbutina says:
    August 8, 2018 at 9:53 pm

    seems pretty obvious . . . the nfl teaches youth league coaches all the time . . . heads up tackling . . . its not too difficult to understand . . . using your head a a spear is dangerous to all players . . . why is everyone h

    ———————–

    The ratings are dropping. Goodell has been caught cheating. He will do anything to implement more rules, new rules, rules that no one knows, his own refs don’t know, etc, in order to fix games.

    I just read there will be an “uptick” of Def PI and illegal contact. How on god’s green earth can there be more flags than there already are? The games are too long, the commercials, etc. It’s all for money now. Don’t you get this?

    Ratings will continue to drop as Goodell tries to manipulate the game from behind the curtain at his desk at 345 Park Ave.

    I played football. I know a proper coach teaches see what you hit, but there will be plays where incidental contact will occur with the helmet, where there is no possible way for it to be avoided and the refs will flag it, especially if they want to losing team to catch up and make the game closer.

    Here is an example: In 2014, Brandon Browner put a textbook hit on SDs VIrgil Green, and as his shoulder hit Green’s, the force in which Green’s head jerked down due to the hit, it grazed Browner’s. McCourty picked it, ran it back for a pick 6. Oh no! But, wait! It’s being called back because it only LOOKED LIKE Browner led with his helmet, when in reality, it was a shoulder to shoulder hit. The flag came really late, almost like the ref forgot his orders about “anything close, if the game is close or SD is behind, throw a flag”.

    That’s why the subjective rules like Holding and PI/Illegal Contact always come off so ticky tack. And, that’s why the team that is trailing gets gifts. It’s a clear pattern.

    This is all started in 2006. Goodell became commissioner in 2006.

    So, as Goodell slowly destroys the NFL in the name of greed, don’t ask why I or others have such a problem with it.

    I know what he is doing and it’s disgusting.

  11. suncawy says:
    August 8, 2018 at 10:24 pm
    They could just about have a penalty on almost every play. Your head is attached to your shoulders, so as players lower their shoulders, refs are going to interpret that as a player lowering their helmet when they may have hit with their shoulder.

    If you think your head is attached to your shoulders, you need to go back to anatomy class.

  12. “The manner in which this rule was slipped onto the list of the Competition Committee’s proposals for the annual league meeting”

    Starting to sound like Washington now!

  13. suchapaindude says:
    August 8, 2018 at 10:22 pm

    I don’t see the rule as complicated. It may be broad, but its not vague. Lower and hit with your head = flag. I like that, there is no judgment to be made by the ref. Was it a hard hit or not? Don’t matter, he lowered his head. Like mentioned above, guy moved = penalty. Guy lined up wrong, penalty. He grabbed the facemask or he didn’t. Refs shouldn’t judge intent whenever possible. Player did it or he didn’t.

    0

    0

    ——————

    So, what you just said means a guy could be stumbling and still trying to make a tackle and since his head dips, he is penalized.

    This game is way too fast and physical to try to control it to that degree.

    We all know what a dirty head hit is, and I find it comical that Michael Jenkins can ear hole Cooks in a SB and months later it’s now considered a penalty, in the same game where cheater Goodell handed Philly two illegal TDs.

  14. tylawspick6 says:
    August 8, 2018 at 9:51 pm
    I’ve already explained this: It is a way for Goodell to cheat. Lawyers love to use grey area as a way of making an argument as to why something should be the way it should be.

    If it was black and white, like the 3 year old, very clear catch rule we just saw work so well (even if Goodell cheated in the SUper Bowl by announcing the rule would be altered in the offseason BEFORE THE GAME WAS PLAYED OR THE RULE CHANGE WAS VOTED ON, even though there is no way if it was James WHite in the back of that end zone, and not Corey Clement, there is no question that would have been ruled incomplete), Goodell wants options. His job is to find a way to prove parity to get investors and sponsors comfortable over in London and beyond.

    And, right now, with the PAas likely winning a 10th straight division title and going to their 8th straight conf title game, there is no genuine parity.

    Everyone knows it and BB/Brady are embarrassing other owners, annually.

    I will be money that numerous Pats players will be victimized by this new rule, even though the players are the best coached and smartest, cohesive group in the NFL.

    Goodell sells something one way, but his goal is really something else, and he will cheat right in front of the NFL customer to get what he wants.

    “““

    You need more tinfoil….

  15. Remove the facemask and bring back the leather helmet. Leading with the helmet and the problems with concussions from violent collisions will take care of themselves.

  16. Why hasn’t the NFL caught up with the times and put someone in a booth with video review to immediately review flags? They could review them before the ball is spotted and the ref gets on the mic. If no foul, play on. If it’s a foul, announce it. I have a feeling there are going to be a ton of blown calls this year.

  17. keeping your head completely up when trying to tackle is a recipe for a sprained neck or even dislocation. You’ll see that and way more broken collar bones this year. Yay rules!

  18. Defensive player lowers his head to draw a foul then pulls up. Rb drops head to protect himself. Then what?

  19. Stupid players need to learn how to tackle, coaches need to coach their players NOT to use their helmet….seems simple. Tackle and wrap up the player. This rule could be embarrassing to coaches and players alike.

    a year too late for steelers Shazier, who could have easily wrapped the guy up, instead he used his helmet as a spear, hammer, missile. Tragic that it occurred.

  20. I love the game of football. Played it for years. But I don’t love it enough to be okay with young men turning their brains into goo just because of simpletons’ idea of masculinity. Play the game safe or stop playing it — it’s a GAME, after all, and the power of metaphor ends at real-life ramifications. The NFL’s absurd denial of the effects of CTE was as shameful as the tobacco industry’s defense of smoking.

  21. Pretty sure seeing Ryan Shazier lying motionless on the ground in front of a national tv audience is a motivating factor. The NFL doesn’t want the player pipeline to dry up over fears of CTE and paralysis. Keep your head up. After a month no one will even talk about it.

  22. Earl Campbell admittedly used his helmet as a weapon when he ran. In Earl’s famous run where his jersey tears running thru the Rams defense. Campbell drives his helmet into Rams All Pro linebacker Isiah Robertson’s chest and crumbles him.

  23. tylaw… The better Team won… As your beloved Coach said: He’s not worried about 17… His focused on 18… Why can’t you move on like Coach CBB has? Your Team lost to a better Team. It happens, move on.

  24. Before I start freaking out about this rule, I’m going to see how it’s called….. I don’t like how the rules are becoming more JUDGEMETAL though….. I just see the HUGE POTENTIAL for game altering calls OR EVEN WORSE, GAME FIXING now that the NFL is in the LEGALIZED gambling field…….

  25. If you are a 220lb DB and Gronk is running at full sprint, how are you suppose to take him down?

  26. I watched the Bears Ravens game last week, and I thought Walt Coleman, who isn’t even one of the leagues best refs made it pretty clear.On replay, all the plays he flagged were fairly similar and there was no doubt about whether they were clear violations of the rule the way it was written. I guess the players will have to wrap up the ball carrier or receivers now instead of spearing them to the ground.

  27. I see that there are still plenty of conspiracy theorists frequenting this website. Apparently referees are involved in widespread corruption, and this is just another tool in their dirty, dirty toolbag.

  28. How can you lower your shoulder to make a hit without lowering your head? I think these games just became a heck of a lot longer because of the tons of penalties we may be seeing.

  29. it will be a flag fest this fall.

    does the rule apply to offensive players as well? because EVERY running back puts his head down when he’s about to be hit.

    i would coach my guys to keep their heads up and go down with their shoulders to make a tackle. because the rule is “if they LOWER the helmet.”

  30. why not make the rule “it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet to THE HEAD OR HELMET against an opponent.”

    wouldn’t that make it a little more clear?
    helmet-to-helmet hits is what they are trying to avoid, isnt it??

  31. tylawspick6 says:
    August 8, 2018 at 9:51 pm
    “It is a way for Goodell to cheat”.

    This is an unbelievable comment coming from the biggest cheaters in sports. A team that filmed and stole the sideline hand signals from opponents and then made half time”adjustments” that let them know what plays were being called ahead of time. That is how you beat the Eagles in their first Superbowl go around. You lost a game to a backup QB and you’re still whining like a two year old baby but here’s the great thing about it. Philadelphia showed everybody in football how to beat the Patriots by not respecting or backing down to them. Go after them without fear and they will fold like a cheap suit!!!

  32. BuckyBadger says:
    August 9, 2018 at 1:29 am
    If you are a 220lb DB and Gronk is running at full sprint, how are you suppose to take him down?
    =
    So we’re going to take into account the size of a player when determining fouls? Funny how a successful Patriots player causes rules changes.

    Go for his leg, not an intentional shot to the knee like the scumbag play that initiated the Carson Palmer Rule, which many believe is the Tom Brady rule about which they are wrong. Beside, the refs are more than willing to help out by letting dbacks hold him yet flag him if he protects his space.

  33. I can’t wait to see this playout in an age of government approved sports betting.

  34. They probably should have used the phrase “tilt the head” rather than “lower the head”. When a tackler lowers his body his head is going to go with him, really its science. I thought the intent was to stop using the crown of the helmet, sure it may be implied but with a committee putting this together why not spell it out correctly.

  35. More commercial breaks means more money. The NFL tries to make it look like they care about the safety of players but we all know what its really about. Mo Money

  36. I had coached heads up football for 15 years before retiring and believe firmly in it. The rule simply reinforces with incentive for players to actually practice the discipline.

  37. Win win for Goodell, legal cover and, of course, more commercials. This isn’t really about unnecessary roughness. Some speak like everyone is out there trying to paralyze themselves and others.

  38. vaphinfan says:
    August 8, 2018 at 10:13 pm
    The rule will be used to bail the patriots out when needed.

    36 28 Rate This

    —————————-

    Other way around. Did you watch the Super Bowl?

  39. BuckyBadger says:
    August 9, 2018 at 1:29 am
    If you are a 220lb DB and Gronk is running at full sprint, how are you suppose to take him down?

    ———-

    You aren’t. That’s why Mike Tomlin tells his defense to not even cover Gronk.

  40. You need more tinfoil….

    ———————

    You need a college degree and a better understanding of how the world work$. Follow the money and you get your answers.

  41. I believe there should e a hybrid helmet that is a cross between the modern NFL helmet and … you will organically start to take the head out of the play !

    I thought this for years too. Then it was explained to me that any player hurt with a new helmet could sue the league because they weren’t mandated proper protection.

    It’s why they can’t take the plastic elbow pads out of hockey. Everyone hates it.. but no one can do anything about it.

  42. Slow motion replays will distort the viewers at home’s perception of time. Super slow motion replays will give fans a false sense of time. It will inaccurately show there was time to make a decision.

    Replays for the helmet rule should only be shown in real time. I’m not looking forward to all the comments that use inaccurate words like “clearly” or “obviously” or “only a moron”
    Real time bam/bam will will greatly reduce or erase those types of comments.

  43. I just don’t understand how any fan of football can support this asinine rule. Football is a dangerous sport just as auto racing is dangerous. All that can be done is to provide the best equipment possible to protect the individual but that still won’t change the fact that its a dangerous sport that can lead to serious injury or even death. No rule change is going to change that fact. Its a natural reaction to lower your shoulders when impact of any kind is expected. The head just naturally comes with the shoulders in most situations.

  44. The problems will arise when a defensive player goes low with the intention of using his shoulder for contact, and the opposing offensive player slightly shifts direction which then causes the defensive player to make helmet-first contact. This new rule is going to be absolutely horrible. The referees are going to get more camera time than the actual playing of the game, and great defensive efforts like drive stopping tackles or forced fumbles are going to be rewarded with penalties and automatic first downs for the offense.

  45. BuckyBadger says:
    August 9, 2018 at 1:29 am
    If you are a 220lb DB and Gronk is running at full sprint, how are you suppose to take him down?

    ——

    Shoulder pad to belt buckle – eyes us – wrap your arms around drive with your legs – just like they taught you in pee wee league. You try and spear Gronk you’re likely to end up face dewn with a concussion

  46. The obvious calls are fine. But in that first preseason game it was flagged 3 times and only one was obvious and the other two were flat-out wrong. One was a textbook safety tackle where he came in low and was looking at what he was hitting, only he was diving and what he was looking at was the guy’s legs so it apparently appeared to the officials like he was looking down. (Or something? Hard to figure out what the ref saw on that one.) The other featured no contact with the helmet (glancing contact at best) but it got called any way. The biggest problem is the league seems incapable of acknowledging that heads are attached to shoulders so helmet are going to impact on almost all standard shoulder tackles.

  47. Because most people don’t seem to get, this rule is taking shoulder tackles out of the game

    jbutina says:
    August 8, 2018 at 9:53 pm
    seems pretty obvious . . . the nfl teaches youth league coaches all the time . . . heads up tackling . . . its not too difficult to understand . . . using your head a a spear is dangerous to all players . . . why is everyone having such an issue with this?

  48. “That anticipation isn’t going away with the helmet rule, so stop the hyperbole “flag football” comments.”

    Except that “anticipation” is going to change from “will they pick up the first down or score” to “which penalty will the refs call”. We’ve already been at that point the last couple seasons where every pass you have to wait to make sure the refs don’t call some ridiculous penalty to know if it was a catch, an incompletion or a penalty.

    It may not be “flag football” of the kind where players wear flags that have to be pulled out to get a “tackle”, but it most definitely is going to be “flag football” where every single play you wait for the how many flags the refs throw.

  49. “I thought this for years too. Then it was explained to me that any player hurt with a new helmet could sue the league because they weren’t mandated proper protection.

    It’s why they can’t take the plastic elbow pads out of hockey. Everyone hates it.. but no one can do anything about it.”

    Or they could simply have the players who want to try a new helmet or take their plastic elbow pads off sign a waiver acknowledging and accepting the risk.

    I used to skydive when I was younger and made 140 jumps. At every single drop zone I jumped at the first thing you did the first time you jumped there was sign a waiver accepting the risk of the sport so you couldn’t sue the drop zone if you got hurt or your family couldn’t do so if you got killed.

    There is zero reason the NFL couldn’t use similar waivers. You want to play in the NFL? You accept that its a tough and sometimes dangerous sport and accept the risk of doing so. That’s why the players get rewarded with millions.

  50. Have any of you ‘experts’ ever watched a rugby match? They don’t wear helmets and literally pound the snot out of each other. They run around full speed, flipping the ball around, tackling and shoving each other and no heads are used as a battering ram. Try getting in the middle of a rugby scrum and you’ll see what I mean. Those guys don’t mess around.

  51. crush22 says:
    August 8, 2018 at 10:11 pm
    tylawspick6 says:
    August 8, 2018 at 9:51 pm
    I’ve already explained this: It is a way for Goodell to cheat.
    ___________
    Patsie* fan lecturing on cheating…..classic.
    —————–

    Bronco* fan talking about cheating at all. First class hypocrites

  52. officialgame says:
    August 9, 2018 at 6:47 am

    This is an unbelievable comment coming from the biggest cheaters in sports. A team that filmed and stole the sideline hand signals from opponents and then made half time”adjustments” that let them know what plays were being called ahead of time. That is how you beat the Eagles in their first Superbowl go around. You lost a game to a backup QB and you’re still whining like a two year old baby but here’s the great thing about it. Philadelphia showed everybody in football how to beat the Patriots by not respecting or backing down to them. Go after them without fear and they will fold like a cheap suit!!!
    —-
    Someone thinks they know about what Spygate actually was…filming outside of a designated area when it was only a warning in a memo and not actually in the rulebook. I bet ya think there was some far fetched nefarious scheme to remove 0.3 psi from each individual ball in the span of a 90 second bathroom break too, right buddy? Did you know that it is still legal to this day to record opposing team’s sidelines and hand signals? Yeah every single team still does it, it just has to be done from the “designated area”.

  53. You do not need to lower your head to tackle. It’s not science. It’s not “just a fact”. This is the old school tackling style that many of you were taught, especially those in their 40s, 50s, 60s. Your assumption is that players are STILL TAUGHT TO TACKLE THIS WAY – they are not! Actually watch a game and observe how a lot of the players are tackling. YES, you do still see a few jerks lowering their helmet and looking at the ground while they’re tackling (very dangerous), but the vast majority hit with their head completely up and make chest-to-chest contact with the ball carrier. There isn’t even a chance for the helmet to enter the play.

    Guarantee this gets a landslide of downvotes, but it’s still true. Only the players that willfully tackle incorrectly are still using the traditional spear/shoulder tackle. It is nearly removed from the game.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.