NFL makes initiating contact with the helmet a point of emphasis for officials

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The NFL is once again reminding players, coaches and officials that lowering the helmet to initiate contact is a penalty that referees won’t hesitate to call this season.

In a video distributed by the league on Tuesday, lowering the helmet was singled out as one of the penalties that officials will be keeping an eye out for.

“A continued point of emphasis for the 2021 season is the use of helmet foul,” the video said. “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with an opponent. The penalty is 15 yards and the player could be disqualified. Even if not called on the field, such actions could warrant further review and discipline by the league.”

Although the rules on lowering the helmet are unchanged for 2021, when the league makes a foul a point of emphasis, that usually means the league felt that too many players were breaking the rule in 2020. Don’t be surprised if officials throw more flags for lowering the helmet and initiating contact in 2021.

26 responses to “NFL makes initiating contact with the helmet a point of emphasis for officials

  1. Will it challengeable? There’s a big risk of selective over-interpretation. I recall the Michel-Geathers incident. Refs didn’t call it and every Colts fan and Pats-hater said it was a clear foul. Yet slo-mo clearly shows BOTH players merely instinctively (Geathers actually fractionally before Michel) lowering their heads as Michel charges for the line and Geathers squares off in his path. Both guys hurt but Geathers comes off far worse. The Pats-hating twitter-shpere erupts and the NFL (wrongly) apologizes to Colts and says they should have penalized Michel. Watch it frame-by-frame – Geathers lowers his head a frame before Michel.

    There is (or should be) a clear enough difference between instinctively lowering the head to protect the face, and headbutting or spearing. My point being that forcing these guys to keep their heads up as they charge into each other will cause worse injury. Instinct is there to protect the face and neck.

  2. seems like another wau for the zebras to “inluence” the outcomes of games/ also means , exxentially,only arm tackling is allowed- speariing, leading with the helmet is different than what they are attemting here- the flag football future is nigh

  3. Great. so on top of game changing, bogus roughing the QB calls now we will get these too. Overregulation is never a good thing.

  4. Hopefully officials will live review these penalties and pick up the flag on questionable and incorrect calls. I understand the goal to limit or eliminate these types of hit,but have seen unjustified calls on it a bit too often.

  5. so every running play where a rb takes on a defender who is about to tackle them straight on

  6. My assumption is this better be really looked at on running back ff defensive players are gonna get called for tapping a qb on the head with their hand, or for going helmet to helmet when they are already mid tackle and the offensive player ducks.

  7. There goes all the big hits! No more enforcers will exist in the NFL. While the NFL’s intentions are good, it’s going to be impossible for Safety’s and Linebackers to make statement plays. Helemets are inveitably going to touch. And the NFL is going to love PR that their a safe players-first league at the expense of the game! What concerns me the most is how games could be tilted because of it.

  8. Ah the NFL. “We totally missed a call that decided a major playoff game so we promise we’re going to “emphasis it” next year during regular season games to an annoying degree which will totally fix the screw up that eventually decided who represented the AFC in the Superbowl.

    How about just make it a reviewable call like it is in college. Just that gives Cleveland six points and a most likely win vs the Chiefs during the playoffs instead of watching a replay over and over of an illegal hit just to see if the fumble it caused went into the end zone which activated and even dumber rule.

  9. It sure would be nice if they did. The officials have seemed to go 50/50 the last couple years on whether they call this or not.

  10. In related news, Harrison Smith has been already been thrown out of the first game of the season, as the league demonstrates that they mean business, and that just as many crappy calls will happen this year.

  11. This rule should NOT be enforced when it involves a running back (hey tuck & lower shoulders to protect themselves) OR if a receiver becomes a RB AFTER THE CATCH as long as he’s not trying to initiate helmet to helmet contact….The onus on this rule should fall more on the defender….

  12. The NFL should start fining the referee’s when they miss a call as well as if they make a bad call.

  13. I don’t understand the yearly “points of emphasis” of rules that are ALWAYS supposed to be enforced. They seem to be an admission by the league that the rules are so complex and numerous that even the officials sometimes forget them. And if that really is the issue then simplifying things would be much more helpful to the sport than picking a rule or two every year and telling the officials “don’t forget about these.”

  14. Defense AND Offense?? Those running backs dipping their helmet and blasting through the line…. are they going to call this???? Just remove the rule and go back to NO Spearing!!! Why make everything so convoluted.

  15. This rule is on the books for two reasons. First, it’s another tool to be able to control the game, such as the well timed holding or PI call, so the score doesn’t get too far out of hand and TV sets start clicking to other channels. Second, it’s a weapon that can be used in future concussion lawsuits filed against the league.

  16. Ugh…expect numerous ridiculous calls early in the season and hopefully back to “normal” by mid season.

  17. Oh, brother, here we go… A season marred by phantom personal fouls called by jumpy officials… I cant wait…

  18. But what if the helmet is a large pillow filled with goose feathers, like what the Vikings used in OTAs?

  19. I like these points of emphasis. Fewer helmet hits and less taunting would make the game more enjoyable to watch.

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