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Is the NFL Getting Soft with New Helmet Contact Rules?

AP Kevin Terrell
AP Photo/Kevin Terrell

NFL owners recently approved a strict new rule that penalizes and sometimes ejects players, who lower their helmets to initiate contact with another player.

“We want the helmet used as protection, not as a weapon,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on March 28.

Some current and former players believe the new rule will be hard to enforce.

“The way the rule is written right now, it’s basically saying that if any player that lowers their head – offense, defense, quarterback, it doesn’t matter who it is – if any player lowers their head and receives or dishes out contact, that player will be either fined or ejected,” former NFL safety Darren Woodson told the website “You can’t play a game in the National Football League without lowering your head.”

Hard-hitting Washington Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger wasn’t too pleased when the new rule was announced.

“This obviously not football ,” tweeted Swearinger. “THE GAME WE LOVE IS GETTING DESTROYED EVERYDAY Because of what? Whatever Your Answer Is. This Is My Reply “THIS IS WHAT WE SIGNED UP FOR!” PERIOD!!!”

Former New England Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham thinks what the NFL is asking from its players is scientifically impossible to execute.

Patriot Matt Chatham tweeted:

This new rule will be a huge challenge for offensive linemen, who often lead with their heads when engaging defenders after the snap.

“These guys need to keep their  and eyes up,” Rich McKay told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “We’re definitely going to make it a point of emphasis for all that. It is harder to do for [offensive linemen], no question.”

Speaking of offensive linemen, one of the best to ever do it, former Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas, actually likes what the NFL is trying to do.

“If you’re trying to look out for the long-term health of the, wouldn’t you want to eliminate hits with the crown of the helmet,” wrote Thomas for SI. “I think players will adjust.

“We’re talking about the future of football, and the future of players’ health.”

And Thomas feels players have been taught for years NOT to lead with their helmet.

“As players—and I just retired after an 11-year career—we’re taught to not use the crown of the helmet to hit anything. We’re taught to see what we hit, and to avoid helmet hits as often as possible,” Thomas said.

They might be taught that, but sometimes it’s impossible to avoid.

“Are they going to eject a running back because a running back is taught to lower his shoulder and bring his head down to protect himself? Woodson said. “Running backs are not going to way to run straight up because they’ll get hit in the chin. It’s just not going to happen. It’s natural for him to lower his head.”

Whether it’s natural of not, the NFL is forging ahead with this rule in their effort to cut down on concussions, which were up last season from the previous year.

So the players better make some adjustments.


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