The NFL’s new helmet rule doesn’t appear to be getting a warm response from players or fans. There have been just 33 preseason games played so far but the referees have already thrown 51 penalty flags for committing the newly-concocted offense.
That averages out to about 1.5 helmet rule fouls per game so far. Under the new rule, a penalty is assessed to any player who lowers their helmet when making contact with an opposing player.
It makes sense that defenses are being flagged more often than offenses. After all, they are the ones that perform the bulk of the tackling. Of the 51 violations, a total of 43 have been called against defenders while 8 have been assessed to offensive players.
After the league announced that it had officially put this new rule in the books, it was widely expected that it would only be enforced in the most egregious situations. However, this certainly hasn’t been the case over the first half of the preseason schedule. The general spirit of the rule itself seems to make sense for a league that is dealing with issues such as concussions and CTE but does it go too far?
We’ve seen various sports league implement new rules before and there have been many instances in which both the players and those who officiate games go through a learning curve. It’s quite possible that referees have been directed to overdo it so that the players become far more aware early on. We will have to wait and see if the frequency of these calls tapers off in the regular season.
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Calls To Scrap The Rule
One of the biggest problems with the rule is how it is open to so much interpretation. The ambiguity and lack of consistency is infuriating for the players and the constant delays that are caused by these penalties are frustrating for fans.
These rules appear to be ill-conceived and written by lawyers who are desperately trying to protect the NFL from further lawsuits. It’s pretty clear that there has been little to no consultation with the people that actually play the game. There is a growing number of players and fans that want to see this rule scrapped but, sadly, there are no signs that it will be.
A conference call between the league and its officials is scheduled for Wednesday and the controversial rule will be discussed. As of now, it doesn’t look like any major changes to the rule will be made.