Updated Riveron helmet rule video adds animation, but not narration

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There’s good news as it comes to that largely useless video posted by NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron regarding the new rule against lowering the helmet and making contact with an opponent: It’s been revised both to ditch the Commodore 64 graphics and, more importantly, to add animation that highlights which player is or isn’t complying with the rule.

Here’s the bad news: It still lacks narration or explanation, making it only slightly less useless than it was. (It’s not clear why Riveron didn’t simply do a video that includes his explanation as to why a given play is or isn’t a foul.)

Here’s my quick assessment of the six plays shown on the video, with the first three not a foul and the last three examples of a violation.

In the first play not involving a foul, Rams safety Steven Parker closes in to make a form tackle. As he approaches the ball carrier, Parker LOWERS HIS HELMET. If the ball carrier had shifted slightly to his right (Parker’s left), Parker would have struck the opponent with the lowered helmet, and it would have been a foul.

In the second, Jets safety J.J. Wilcox approaches the Falcons receiver and Wilcox instinctively LOWERS HIS HELMET. Wilcox actually makes contact against the receiver with the helmet. So why wasn’t it a foul? As the grossly broad lowering-the-helmet rule is written, it should have been.

In the third, Jets cornerback Jeremy Clark makes a form tackle on a kickoff return. Just before impact, Clark LOWERS HIS HELMET. Clark manages to deliver the blow without making contact against the opponent with Clark’s helmet.

As to the two situations that clearly aren’t fouls, the outcome is driven more by happenstance than technique. Basically, Parker and Clark got lucky, in that the opponent didn’t move into the path of the lowered helmet. If they had, it would have been a foul, based on the manner in which the rule is written.

In the first play showing a violation, a Rams defender chases down a ball carrier and, at the point of impact, instinctively dips his helmet and makes contact. Technically, it’s a foul. But what was the player supposed to do differently? There will be many plays in which the defender won’t be able to square up and make a form tackle. If what the defender did in that case is a foul, what could he have done that wouldn’t have been a foul — other than sprint down the field and circle back in the hopes of maybe being able to approach him from the front?

In the second play, Browns tight end Orson Charles goes in motion from right to left before the snap, then goes back to the right and delivers a block that seals the path to the ball carrier. Charles instinctively lowers his helmet and seems to make contact with the helmet against the Giants defender Charles is trying to block. Again, what could he have done differently, other than collide with the defender while standing straight up, and in turn been blown up by the lower man? (An arguably more obviously foul appears on that play, when Giants defensive back Orion Stewart, wearing No. 45, performs a head-down lunge into the ball carrier while he is being tackled.)

The third play represents a mirror image of the second one, with a Saints player moving left to right to block Jaguars defensive lineman Lyndon Johnson, who lowers his helmet just before colliding with the blocker. It happens quickly, but it definitely appears to be a violation of both the letter and the spirit of the rule; Johnson could have at least tried to move his helmet to the side instead of putting his helmet in the blocker’s stomach.

Bottom line? The rule continues to be far too broad, its application will far too often be driven by chance and randomness, and it’s becoming far too late to implement a meaningful fix that requires the blow to be forcible and that carves out any incidental contact that happens while the tackler or blocker is attempting to deliver a hit without making contact with the helmet.

In 22 days, this rule will be applied to games that count.

23 responses to “Updated Riveron helmet rule video adds animation, but not narration

  1. This is just going to become the new catch rule.. Something 100% subjective to the officials on the field. Is football a violent sport, yes. Can you suffer major injuries, yes. Is the risk/reward worth it 100% yes. There are plenty of other dangerous jobs out there that don’t have nearly the same pay-off as the NFL. If you don’t want the money, then don’t take the risk. Use that fall back college degree almost every NFL player has earned for free.

  2. There’s thousands of plays every week and those are the BEST plays Riveron can come up with?? Come on!!! What does this guy do,? He’s gotta go!!

  3. (It’s not clear why Riveron didn’t simply do a video that includes his explanation as to why a given play is or isn’t a foul.)


    Its totally clear why he didnt do a video with his explanation…he doesnt have a very good way to explain it. The NFL has made a rule it cannot explain very well. Ugh what a train wreck. I am with Florio in his earlier PFT article–the NFL needs to force through an updated version of this rule NOW before it ruins a season (or more). I get this will cause them more problems than the anthem protests…because this will actually effect the quality of the game they are putting on TV. #NFLBetterFixThisNow

  4. It’s a rule that can’t be explained, and they will know it when they see it … Or the team they are rooting for isn’t winning.

  5. There’s videos on NFL’s you-tube channel actually showing flag football & how its played. That’s really where its heading, wow.

  6. This is the same as pass interference rule. The refs call it however they want depending on who is paying them.
    It’s time the refs took a drug test along with the players

  7. Sorry, Mike. I disagree with you on all six explanations. The first three aren’t fouls because the highlighted player didn’t lower his helmet. The second three are fouls because the player lowered his helmet to align his spine. Its basically spearing but instead of hitting the opponent in the chest, he hits him in the head.

    I’ll briefly explain what the offending player could have done differently to avoid a foul:

    1) Defender chases down the play and when the runner cuts upfield, #41 has plenty of areas to hit the RB, instead he earholes him with the crown of his helmet. Literally any other tactic would have been safer (and likely not a foul), and he would have not given up any more yards in the process.

    2) TE comes across the formation to seal the DE from getting inside. DE has position and leverage, TE needs to get low and lead with his hands and keep his facemask up instead of squaring up and, again, putting the crown of his helmet directly into the defender.

    3) I think you (should) get the point by now. Once again, CROWN OF HELMET is placed right into the TEs chest. Foul every time under the new rule. Easy to spot, easy to avoid if you’re the DE.

    I think where you’re getting confused is hitting with the facemask is not a penalty, but hitting with the crown of the helmet is (IE LOWERING THE HELMET). If you make contact with another player and you are staring directly at the ground, you are likely getting flagged.

  8. This game was so much more enjoyable without godell, and ESPECIALLY Riveron. People that have conviction about being stupid and wrong are the ones that need a slappin, much less a job I’m front of millions

  9. I think all this is deliberate. Years ago a doctor gave a lecture about how most everything is planned ahead of time to change the culture. He listed many things accurately that came about and one of them was they were going to phase out football and get everybody watching soccer. The actions of the NFL seem irrational until you understand this.The execs all have golden parachutes and tons of money already so they will not be the ones to suffer.

  10. If the ball carrier had shifted slightly to his right (Parker’s left), Parker would have struck the opponent with the lowered helmet, and it would have been a foul.
    Ok. So players with the ball can move in a certain spot to create a flag for the guy tackling him.
    That’s how Rodgers and the packers play. Free plays, pass interference right or left.

    I guess that’s a good rule?

  11. I have seen plays where a defensive player is making a form tackle on an opposing receiver who lowers his head to brace for the hit. Helmets hit and it should be called a foul on both players which would help the refs by negating an unfair foul on the defense. In general offensive players aren’t being called for lowering their head and making contact which makes no sense.

  12. Can we all just start admitting the helmet rule is the new abomination of a rule that is going to continue the decline in ratings?

    When is the next flag coming? Who the bleep knows. Welcome to the NFL.

  13. The revised video is common sense…eyes up and head/ear hole to the side and away of the opponents helmet while the shoulder makes the most violent impact. Run through the opponent when tackling with leg and hip drive, wrap up and grab cloth then finish to the ground.

    No use of any part of the front/top/crown of the helmet and/or face mask. Tackle with the shoulder NOT the face mask/helmet. The coaching staff NEEDS to teach this too.

    This should eliminate the majority of the problem for player safety. Nothing is totally safe proof with the speed of the game and the constant movement in the blocking/tackling and the defense in pursuit of the ball carrier.

  14. The only question I have is how does Al Riveron still have a job? After his pathetic performance last year, reversing calls that shouldn’t have been. He must have pics of Rodger in a compromising position.

  15. So it’s 4th and goal at the 1/2 yard line and the RB puts his head down to get low and barrels into the line……this is now a 15 yard penalty?

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