The new helmet rule continues to create plenty of consternation, primarily because plenty of fans and media members continue to have plenty of confusion about what the rule allows and prohibits. Primarily because the league, before this week, had not done much to explain the niceties of the new rule.
A flag thrown on Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye early in Saturday’s game at Minnesota provides a good example of how the rule will operate, any and all flaws notwithstanding.
After catching a swing pass near the left sideline, Vikings fullback C.J. Ham began running forward. Bouye approached. Ham lowered his head. Bouye dropped even lower.
While the angle from the coaching film may be more clear, it appears that Bouye struck Ham with Bouye’s helmet, instead of hitting Ham with the flipper of Bouye’s shoulder pad. Also, Bouye had his head down instead of having his face up.
Because the new rule prohibits lowering the helmet to initiate contact and then initiating contact with an opponent, and because Bouye lowered his helmet to initiate contact and did in fact initiate contact with the helmet, it was a foul.
Whether anyone likes the rule or not (and plenty don’t), Bouye’s decision to lower his helmet and his failure to get the helmet to Ham’s side made it a foul.
Some have argued that Ham should have been penalized, too. But even though Ham lowered his helmet, he didn’t initiate contact. If Bouye had taken the hit (much like a basketball player taking a very hard charge), Ham would have been penalized. If both helmets had collided after both players had lowered their helmets to initiate contact, the penalties would have been offsetting.
For much more on the helmet rule from NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron, check out Friday’s #PFTPM podcast.