It remains to be seen whether Wednesday’s discussion regarding the new rule against lowering the helmet results in any changes to the rule. However things play out tomorrow, the league eventually will be providing more specific information about what it and isn’t allowed.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that the NFL will prepare an “updated video tutorial that will be distributed to game officials, coaches and players once the final preseason games are played and in time for teams preparing for their regular-season openers.”
The league previously disseminated a series of videos prepared by five NFL coaches, targeting specific positions. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn addressed running backs. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone handled offensive line. Falcons coach Dan Quinn dealt with defensive line play. Titans coach Mike Vrabel looked at linebackers. And Jets coach Todd Bowles did defensive backs.
I’ve watched each of them. Although they have yet to be rated by Rotten Tomatoes, one league source who has extensive knowledge of the manner in which the rule was passed and the way it has been enforced said, “I hated them.”
There’s nothing wrong with the videos from a technical standpoint. The coaches do a nice job of showing what the league is trying to do, when it comes to removing the helmet from the game. The objection to the videos comes from the fact that the league is trying to do so much more than simply eliminate the use of the helmet as a weapon.
Watch the videos, the links to which are embedded above. They emphasize a linear posture, with the back flattened and the helmet down. Once the player assumes that specific body alignment, the foul happens if it initiates contact with an opponent, with the rule assuming that the player intended to use the helmet as a weapon.
Remember when NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent proclaimed that the league had watched 40,000 plays and only three potential ejections under the new rule were identified? That talking point helped fuel the buy-in from coaches, glossing over the reality that, of those 40,000 snaps, there would have been a lot more than only three flags thrown.
That’s why coaches are frustrated. They were told one thing, and something else has been happening. The problem is that what’s happening meshes with what the rule says, and that unless the powers-the-be (as we understand it, the Management Council) are willing to adjust the language of the rule, what the rule says is what the rule will be: No lowering of the helmet to initiate and make contact, with no limitation as to the portion of the helmet that can strike an opponent, no requirement that the blow be forcible, no exception for incidental helmet contact, no exemption for tackles that happen from the side, and no allowance for replay review to assist the officials who are trying to figure this all out in real time.