The NFL didn’t change the new helmet rule on Wednesday, while also changing it. Which raises an obvious question: Why not just change it?
Apart from the league’s stubborn refusal to admit to ever making a mistake, changing the rule would have required the vote of 24 members of ownership. Which would have required a meeting of the owners to be convened. Which would have required someone (the Commissioner) to explain to 32 different owners the reason for the sudden effort to find a time for getting them all on the phone at the same time to fix a problem that should have been addressed when the rule was first passed in March.
Roger Goodell surely didn’t want to make those calls, and his lieutenants surely didn’t want to tiptoe into the big office to start the conversation that would have resulted in those calls being made.
So the league instead changed the rule without changing it, taking interpretive license to add a key exception that wasn’t and still isn’t part of the rule as written: Inadvertent or incidental helmet contact is not a foul.
Of course, that could prompt a flurry of phone calls from one or more of the 32 owners to Goodell seeking an explanation regarding this de facto usurping of power by 345 Park Avenue. But the owners who get it won’t be upset by this effort to “clarify” (change) the rule, since it needed to be done and, as a practical matter, there was no other way to do it.
It will be interesting to see whether anything comes of this during the next meeting of owners in October. If, at that time, the league isn’t absorbing constant criticism regarding this rule, those who made the much needed fix without officially making a fix should be officially applauded.