In many situations, common sense ain’t. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hopes the common sense will make periodic appearances in the application and enforcement of the new rule regarding helmet use.
After Saturday’s preseason game against the Bengals, PFT’s Charean Williams asked Jones for his impressions of the prohibition on lowering the helmet to initiate and make contact with an opponent.
“Well, I didn’t like it,” Jones said. “I saw one play that our rookie running back, a run that he made and for whatever the reason we all thought, ‘Well, maybe they’re looking at that.’ Then, we thought if that were viewed as a violation of the helmet rule. . . . Well, they ran it back, and it was OK even with a closer look. But it was close enough to have everybody thinking surely he’s not going to get a penalty for that. It has you wondering or thinking surely we’re going to use common sense at the end of the day relative to lowering of the head.”
Jones is referring not to a foul called on running back Bo Scarbrough, but a foul called against 49ers defensive back Elijah Lee for a hit delivered against Scarbrough. (That’s the only time this penalty was called against either team in either of the Cowboys’ preseason games.)
It happened with roughly 4:30 remaining in the third quarter of the Week One preseason game between the two teams (the Game Pass product is invaluable when it comes to watching these plays after the fact). Scarbrough caught a short pass, and Lee converged. Lee lowered his head and initiated contact with his helmet against Scarbrough.
There’s no common sense to be applied in this case. If the rules prohibit lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet and actually making contact against an opponent with the helmet, Lee violated the rule. As NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron explained during a visit to Friday’s #PFTPM podcast, actual intent doesn’t matter. The intent is presumed by the lowering of the helmet when approaching the opponent, with the head down and the face not up. (Riveron acknowledged that, if the player goes in with his face up and strikes the opponent with the face mask, it’s not a foul.)
This is the rule that Jones and his partners approved in March. While there may be some buyer’s remorse — especially since we’ve heard that the rule was sold as a simple extension of the prior rule against lining up an opponent and ramming him with the very top of the helmet — this is the rule.
If Jones doesn’t like the rule that he and his partners approved, he’s got 18 days to persuade them to tweak, revise, overhaul, or scrap it.