Will coaches tell players to absorb helmet blows?

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In baseball, it’s taking a plunking. In basketball, it’s taking a charge. In soccer, it’s taking a dive. In football, will it become taking a helmet?

As NFL coaches begin to process the realities of the new helmet rule, some may be tempted to instruct players who could be in a position to absorb a lowered helmet to embrace the blow — and the 15 yards of field position that go along with it.

The best example of this potential dynamic comes from Saturday’s Jaguars-Vikings game. Vikings fullback C.J. Ham caught a swing pass and ran toward Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye. Ham lowered his helmet. Bouye got lower, attempting a form tackle that, in the assessment of the officials, resulted in Bouye lowering his helmet and initiating contact with it. Penalty, Jaguars.

Some argued that Ham should have been flagged, too. But Ham didn’t strike Bouye with the lowered helmet. If he had (and if he’d barreled Bouye over and kept running), the play would have come back to the spot of the foul, with 15 yards marched off against Minnesota from that point.

So what if, when two players are now approaching each other like this, a coaches tells one of them to stay upright, attempting to hug the opponent and, if need be, taking a helmet to the gut (or lower) or chest (or higher)? If Bouye had done that on Saturday, the net difference would have been 30 yards of field position, with the foul being on the Vikings not the Jaguars.

It may be much easier said than done, given the potential for injury when struck by the lowered head of a player moving at full speed or close to it. And if enough coaches realize the potential benefit of telling players to take a lowered helmet, there eventually will be no lowered helmets, because players will stop trying to be the low man.

The end result could be more upright arm grabbing, with players keeping their heads up and essentially hugging. But that’s definitely what the league wants as it tries via this new rule to keep the head out of the game. If a player isn’t able to get low and hit an opponent with his face up, the risk of a foul is real. So it may be better to stay higher than lower and to gladly take 15 yards — even if the player who absorbs the blow ends up not being able to get off the field without assistance.

14 responses to “Will coaches tell players to absorb helmet blows?

  1. The problem is a lot of the tackles being called for this don’t even have a real “blow” involved.

    The first 2 against the Eagles the other night were absolute jokes, and there’s a shot of the one called on the Pats from the side that shows the side of the helmet is what actually made contact.

    This entire rule and the results so far are a disaster that will make the games unwatchable.

  2. Joke of a disaster.

    But it allows NFL to guarantee outcomes it wants for both who gets to and advances in playoffs, point spreads/wins losses for Vegas, AND claiming they care about player safety.

    Billionaires having their cake and eating it too, don’t care that they’ve completely destroyed the game so long as the money keeps rolling in.

  3. yeah right. player would tell the union immediately and the coach would be pressured to resign. too much on the line with the concussion lawsuits.

  4. More likely you see a lot more shots at the knees and below. At least that’s what I experience when playing tackle football without pads with friends. Few people want to try to arm tackle (or can tackle) a guy weighing 250+ pounds running as fast as he can.

  5. The sack they called a penalty on the Vikings for was so bad that if that happens during the season, a LOT of us will be watching something else by October…

  6. Let me get this straight. We all know the rule is poorly written. Because that rule is poorly written, the author wonders if coaches would exploit the rule by explicitly undermining the safety aspect that is supposedly the genesis of the new rule in the first place. Is that a fair assessment?

  7. No coach would be stupid enough to tell another grown man to risk concussion and his livelihood for a 15 yard penalty. That would be a sure-fire way for the coach to ‘lose the locker room’.

  8. I still say it’s going to be a matter of adjusting. Don’t get me wrong… I feel bad for the players who were taught since pee wee in how to tackle, but then they come to the NFL and learn they have to do it a new way.

    It is also a matter of old head fans like me adjusting. I grew up on Ronnie Lott, Andre Waters, and people like that. I grew up on the NFL Films “Hardest Hits” collections and the open interview with coaches who talk about the importance of instilling fear and intimidation in their game. I grew up hearing stories of players who broke their back in a game, duck taping it in the sideline, and getting back in (of course, I’m exaggerating.)

    I’m just saying that you’re trying to change the culture and that takes years. I’m sure when the NFL outlawed grabbing the facemask, blocks from behind, and leg whipping (of of which were legal decades ago) players and fans lamented those changes. Football managed to survive.

  9. Absorbing a helmet hit to the groin from a 225lbs+ running back is not something many players would go along with. There is no padding in that area.

  10. Patrick says:
    August 20, 2018 at 3:30 pm
    “But it allows NFL to guarantee outcomes it wants for both who gets to and advances in playoffs, point spreads/wins losses for Vegas, AND claiming they care about player safety.

    Billionaires having their cake and eating it too, don’t care that they’ve completely destroyed the game so long as the money keeps rolling in.”

    All this coincidentally happening at the same time that sports gambling becomes legal in many states.

  11. Let me get this straight –

    You are advocating absorbing a hit by a running NFL player?
    The laws of physics say you will get knocked backwards, and possibly get hurt, and at the very least winded and be out of the next play. Plus you will get bruised. Do that a few times a game every game and see how you feel at the end of the season.

    I want to see someone absorb repeated runs against a running back especially. Try absorbing a few hits. At what point to you suffer a broken bone or soft tissue injury?

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