NFL’s new helmet rules will make for a lot of bad calls

Two helmet sit on the field during pre-game warmups in a game in Miami - image by Brian Miller
Two helmet sit on the field during pre-game warmups in a game in Miami - image by Brian Miller /

The NFL streamlined the rules on the field for helmet to helmet contact and use of a helmet but like most things that the NFL does these days, the rules are too subjective.

How do you define using a helmet? The NFL believes they have now put safety first by trying to determine what constitutes a foul or even an ejection. Safety has been at the forefront of the NFL’s competition committee since the revelations, and lawsuits, surrounding CTE.

It is pretty safe to say that this 2018 season will have more flags for helmet contact and more ejections for helmet to helmet collisions. A video released by the NFL shows what constitutes a foul and what constitutes an ejection. Take a look at the video below and then let’s discuss it.

In the first example, clearly the player lowers his head to make contact as the ball carrier starts to go to the ground. In the 2nd example, when the Chiefs hit now Miami Dolphins Danny Amendola, the player seems to lower his head as he goes in to wrap tackle. This is where the lines are going to get blurry.

The NFL describes it as “a player who lowers his head to make or initiate contact”. This is going to be a problem as ball carriers tend to go low when faced with contact this in turn causes the defender to go lower as well and that dip in the head will draw an immediate foul according to these guidelines.

The ejection rules are a lot more clear. A player who uses his head in a “linear posture prior to contact”, “contact was clearly avoidable, player had other options”, and “player delivering blow had unobstructed path”.

While the NFL likes their verbiage in rules they tend not to show great examples of what is legal and that is where the gray line and subjective opinion comes in to play. The league is relying on their referees to make the right call in those situations. The same referees who tend to be very inconsistent.

I suspect more flags will be thrown during pre-season games as players will be instructed on how to tackle and since refs attend team practices throughout training camps the instructions will be further detailed there. Regardless, there is going to be some interesting calls this upcoming season.