NFL quietly tweaked lowering of helmet rule for 2022

NFL: NOV 21 Cowboys at Chiefs
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When the NFL first adopted the rule regarding the lowering of the helmet in 2018, no one knew it was coming. This year, the NFL has made a tweak to the controversial rule that no one knew had happened.

The change appears in the official 2022 rulebook, which the NFL has posted online. The rule now reads as follows: “It is a foul if a player lowers his head and makes forcible contact with his helmet against an opponent.”

The rule has changed in two ways. First, the NFL has removed the requirement that the player initiate contact. Second, the word “forcible” has been added to the rule.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the word “initiate” was erased from the rule because it became a sticking point in connection with fines imposed on players for violating the rule. It was commonplace for players to argue that they did not “initiate” the contact, and it was making it harder for the fines to stick via the internal appeals process.

Of course, the addition of the word “forcible” will give players a different defense. The league apparently thinks it will be easier to show that a player made a forcible blow with the helmet than it was to prove that the player had initiated the contact.

It’s possible that many players have been fined for violating this rule since its inception four years ago. The NFL does not announce the weekly fines imposed on players. Instead, the league will respond to specific questions about specific fines that were or weren’t imposed on specific players. If no flag is thrown for lowering the helmet, it requires reporters to watch every snap of every game and search for instances of a player potentially violating the rule.

The league no longer has to do that. It uses an artificial intelligence program developed with Amazon to identify all instances of player helmets making contact with anything. Starting this year, the league no longer has the added burden of showing that such contact was initiated by the player who is fined.

The rule originally was developed as another safety measure. The full story as to how it happened is one of more than 100 essays contained in Playmakers. I could re-tell the story here, but I’m still trying to move a little merchandise.

19 responses to “NFL quietly tweaked lowering of helmet rule for 2022

  1. Instead of Flag Football in the Olympics, the NFL should field teams with all the league’s lawyers, and we can all watch them literally apply forcible change to the game

  2. So basically every play in every game. As we all know, they will call this all pre-season and the first few weeks of the season before they ease up

  3. The games will take seven hours if they call every helmet to helmet on each play.

  4. It was a terribly implemented rule and will likely be worse under this ruling. The most common form of lowering the helmet is the running back imitating the collision but it was hardly ever called that way and seems less likely to be so under this wording. Just another way to make it more dangerous to play D. Terrible rule.

  5. So the guy with the ball is going one way and it’s your job to stop him. Collisions are inevitable. Isn’t that kind of the point?

  6. We need a “Welker rule.” If you go into a fetal position or duck, not only is the penalty not called on the D, the penalty is called on the Offensive Player because the OP created the helmet contact by not remaining upright so the defender can contact the area below the head.

  7. So–if you hit the other player while upright, your head and his will be at the same level. Helmet-to-helmet. Personal foul, fifteen yard penalty.

    If you lower your angle so that you’re not targeting the other player’s head, you’re leading with your helmet. Personal foul, fifteen yard penalty.

    What are defenders supposed to do? Politely ask the ball carrier to go down?

  8. Is the guy who lowered his helmet and knocked out the receiver on Thursday going to get fined? Be cause he wasn’t flagged on the field.

  9. Mandatory guardian helmets. Which would you prefer to see: Ugly headgear or forcible game interruptions?

  10. Get rid of facemasks.

    See how many of the guys lower their head then. And suspend/remove those that do.

  11. IF you watched the HOF game you probably saw Keelan Cole get absolutely hammered on a helmet to helmet hit with no flag. Collinsworth and Tirico even commented that it should have been a flag. Apparently somebody in NY called the officiating crew and reminded them because there were two way less violent hits that were flagged later in the game.

  12. Came here to see how long it took to get the first “flag football” comment. Was not disappointed.

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