A pair of helmet fouls involving Ito Smith show how prevalent it can be

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The new helmet rules reared their ugly heads twice within a few plays on Friday night at MetLife Stadium. And the penalties reveal how prevalent the fouls will be, if the rules are enforced as written.

On a kickoff return following a Jets touchdown, New York cornerback Buster Skrine braced to tackle Falcons running back Ito Smith, who was returning the kick. Smith likewise braced for impact, with both players dropping their helmets, instinctively.

Skrine, who was injured due to the impact, received a 15-yard penalty for lowering the head to initiate contact. The officials easily could have flagged Smith for the same infraction.

Smith got a flag of his own, a few plays later. While attempting to make a block in the open field, Smith dropped his helmet and made what appeared to be incidental contact with his helmet to the midsection of a Jets defender. The officials flagged Smith for lowering his head to initiate contact.

Although the fouls can be brushed off as an example of the overofficious tendencies that referee Brad Allen predicted for the preseason, the outcome reflected a fair application of the rule as written. The players in question lowered the helmets to initiate contact and they made contact.

In neither case was the blow forcible or punishing or otherwise indicative of an intent to use the helmet as a weapon. But that doesn’t matter, because the rules contain no such requirements.

Which means that, if the officials apply the helmet rules as written, 15-yard chunks of field position routinely will be assessed throughout the season, with a very high potential that the outcome of a game will be affected by rules that make it difficult if not impossible to execute blocking and tackling maneuvers against a target that is moving.

23 responses to “A pair of helmet fouls involving Ito Smith show how prevalent it can be

  1. The NFL has been damaging it’s brand for the past several seasons with constant rule changes and wildily inconsistent applications if suspensions. This new rule might be the final straw. The league NEVER admits mistakes & I think they would rather “cut off their nose to spite their face” rather than admit this rule is a mistake & do away with it in 2019. None of the penalties they have called for initiating contact with the helmet in this Falcons/Jets game have been brutal or vicious. They have basically been flagged for playing football as we’ve known it forever. Stop trying to make an inherently violent game safe. These are men & they know the risks of playing football & are well compensated for it.

  2. Player in their next NFL contract should fight to treat the game rules as work rules. So, both sides agree what a catch is, what a hold is, etc… for the length of the union contract. If any modifications are suggested, both sides half to agree to it and bargain it out with concessions if needed. It needs to be just like any union shop, you just can’t say “Tough. Deal with it”.

  3. Forgot who it was but the same penalty was called against the Titans. Looked like the tackler was just lowering his shoulder to wrap up for a tackle and since his head (obviously) sticks out longer than his shoulders, the helmet hit first. I don’t see what the defender could’ve done differently except try to tackle while standing straight up. The helmet didn’t even strike the other player’s head. I think it mid-body or thighs.

  4. Spearing is one thing and it’s obvious. This new rule is a disaster. When either player can be called for the foul, then why wasn’t it? Therein lies the issue. A bunch of new Refs, calling ‘instinctive’ plays (no spearing) that were not intentional, is blatantly absurd.

    I’ve been hit a zillion times. Knocked out twice in one game. Yeah, it sucks. But both times I was playing CB on the goal line and just plugging the FB so others could make the play. I could have wussied out but then you’re just standing there, useless. Knees are going to get abused. Basically, you can’t win so don’t try. Call spearing and defenseless players. That is good enough.

  5. R.I.P. NFL.
    You had a good run. Way to really earn those $30 million a year, Roger.
    I guess my Sundays are free now to go hit the gym and ride my motorcyclem

  6. The NFL blames anthem protests for lost fans and revenue but the real reason is pointless rule changes.

    Stop changing the game and FIRE ROGER GOODELL!

  7. Sure. Penalty, defense, 15yds, First Down. Penalty, offense, 15yds, repeat first down. Penalty, offense, 15yrds, repeat first down. Penalty, defense, 15yds, first down. Lather, rinse, repeat. The game is played in same 30yd chunk of the field, going back and forth. 🙂

  8. I’m so looking forward to a game where a flag is thrown on the last play of the game for a DB using his helmet as a weapon. Which of course will be a borderline call. Then one last desperate pass to the end zone but unfortunately they won’t be able to determine if it is a catch or not as their not sure it fits the definition of “a catch”. Today’s NFL, where has common sense gone???

  9. ALL rule changes have been in response to litigation from PLAYERS, past and present.
    The NFL, to protect itself legally, MUST have evidence to show the court that they have made EVERY effort to minimize the potential for concussions and other injuries.
    Example- a criminal enters your house and cuts themselves on a knife. The perp sues YOU for damages and wins. Other criminals do the same thing and win in court. Now YOU, as the property owner MUST make your property safe for invaders in order to minimize your legal liability.
    Yes this HAS happened and criminals won in court.
    The same principle applies to what the NFL is forced to do, minimizing its legal liability with the rule changes.
    PLAYERS and their lawyers are directly to blame for all of these changes.

  10. hopefully they (the refs) will back off some.Otherwise? you will lose a lot viewership.it was a delay of the game when we already have way too many delays.I believe in safety.Concussions arent a joke but this is crazy what they were doing.It should be restricted to bad hits.

  11. I think the Titans got called for it twice against the Packers on Thursday night. I only saw one of them and it was completely ridiculous (and I’m a Packer fan). Yep, he lowered his head… just like ANY human would. If your face is about to hit something or BE hit by something, you duck your head, purely out of instinct. It wasn’t malicious, it was self-preservation.

    I just can’t see this working at all.

  12. The application of the rule like we have seen here in the preseason feels ticky tack. I bet by seasons end you’ll only see it flagged for the most flagrant of fouls. ie like it has been for years.

  13. NFL refs insure that bad calls will be prevalent. They can’t seemed to be able to call a game today. Refs & the NFL are ruining the game of football.

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