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League officials to discuss new helmet rule on Wednesday

With the start of the regular season little more than two weeks away, the NFL will be discussing the preseason experiences with the new helmet rule on Wednesday.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, a previously-scheduled conference call will take up the issue of the suddenly-controversial new rule, which had been hiding in plain sight but which didn’t become an issue until preseason games began. But while the call wasn’t scheduled specifically to discuss possible fixes to the rule, it’s expected that participants in the call will lobby for potential tweaks.

Possibilities include expressly limiting application of the rule to the top/crown of the helmet. As currently written, the rule applies to any portion of the helmet — front, top, side, anywhere. The rule also could be adjusted to, for example, require forcible helmet contact, to exempt incidental helmet contact, and/or to specifically eliminate from the reach of the rule hits from the side, which happen as defensive players chase the offensive player with the ball.

It’s also possible that replay review will be made available to serve as a fallback for mistakes made by officials who are trying their best in real time to identify what is and isn’t happening.

The overriding goal will be to come up with ways to narrow the focus for the officials. For now, the trigger seems to be spotting the linear posture, with a player lowering his head and flattening his back. Once a player assumes that demeanor, the foul becomes automatic if he initiates contact with the helmet. The better approach may be to focus on the quality of the hit, a know-it-when-you-see-it-type assessment aimed at wiping out instances where the helmet truly is being used as a weapon, not as a piece of equipment that from time to time happens to get in the way as players are trying to do their jobs.