NFL’s New Helmet Rule Hurts The Game

Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8

“As approved by NFL clubs in March, it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.  Contact does not have to be to an opponent’s head or neck area – lowering the head and initiating contact to an opponent’s torso, hips, and lower body, is also a foul.  Violations of the rule will be easier to see and officiate when they occur in open space – as opposed to close line play – but this rule applies anywhere on the field at any time.​”  – NFL Rule Book


You can’t play football.  If you’re found in violation of rule 12, section 2, article 8, you suffer a 15 yard penalty and possible ejection from the game.  Here are the ejection standards:

  1. Player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet.
  2. Unobstructed path to his opponent.
  3. Contact clearly avoidable and player delivering the blow had other options.

If you even think about lowering your helmet for a second, 15 yard penalty, ejection, other team wins, you’re banned for life, you have to change your name, and the team must now move to a remote location.

Image result for NFL helmet

Players Reaction

San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman told USA Today “It’s going to be a disaster.”  He then added “They’ll see how ridiculous it is, once they make the refs call it. It’s going to be worse than holding, worse than the catch rule. On a good form tackle, guys will lead with their shoulder pads, but you bring your head.”

He’s 100% right.  How in the world would you enforce this?  Oh and another great thing about this rule, due to the fact that you could get ejected, the referees get to go review more stuff!  We thought baseball had a pace of play problem, the NFL is going down that road too.

It’s understandable you want player safety.  However; when you now expect players to avoid using the head at all costs, you’re asking them to change what they’ve learned their entire lives.  So just how does the NFL want you to tackle now?  Simple, knees bent, pads down, hands first, head up, and out of the way.  If done correctly, it can and will prevent injury, there is no doubt about that.  However; if you were to accidentally make head contact, now what?  We must now sit through another 5 minute review to see whether or not it was a penalty?

Judgement Call?

You can argue that this rule is similar to pass interference, it’s a judgment call.  If an offensive player lowers his shoulder but the defensive player shifts at the last second and helmet contact is made who do you call the penalty on?

Image result for nfl tackle
Gregory Payan/AP

To put it extremely simple, don’t let your helmet be the first contact.  In 2013 the NFL did adopt this rule but never enforced it.  Now, they look to flag players who lead with the crown of the helmet.  But players and coaches are still confused as to how it’s going to be enforced.  The NFL did release a fact sheet that provides little information on just that.

It’s good that the NFL is trying to avoid concussions but there are better ways of doing this.  Perhaps fines are the better way to go?  But this is a good start and to be honest, it’s actually a good rule.  The NFL just has to figure out how to accurately and fairly enforce the rule.

The NFL has released instructional videos for ballcarriers, offensive and defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs on how to properly tackle and block following the new guidelines.


Brian Berard (@RockyBerard)

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