During the offseason, the NFL told everyone that the new rule against lowering the helmet to initiate contact would be a major change that would result in players getting regularly flagged and fined, and sometimes ejected and suspended. It hasn’t worked out that way.
In fact, the penalty has only been called four times all season, and on three of those occasions the player who committed the penalty wasn’t even fined after the league office reviewed the hit. Only one player, Jaguars defensive end Malik Jackson, has been flagged on the field for lowering the helmet and then fined after the league reviewed the video.
The helmet rule has only been flagged four times all season, after officials were calling it 1.5 times a game early in the preseason. And according to Jonathan Jones of SI.com, only four players have been fined for violating the helmet rule — and those weren’t the same four players who were fined, other than Jackson.
Cincinnati safety Shawn Williams, Jacksonville linebacker Telvin Smith and Minnesota defensive tackle Linval Joseph are the three players who have been penalized for the rule, other than Jackson. But the NFL reviewed those hits and decided not to fine them for lowering the helmet. Meanwhile, three players — Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt, Arizona linebacker Haason Reddick and Baltimore linebacker Patrick Onwuasor — have been fined even though the officials didn’t call the penalty.
So this rule change, which was supposedly going to drastically alter the way the game is played, has resulted in exactly one play all season that was flagrant enough for the officials on the field and the league office reviewing the video to both agree that it deserved sanction. The rule against lowering the helmet has turned into a big nothing.