The NFL has created a lot of controversy this off season, prompting fear and uncertainty about the league’s future. The biggest concern from fans was over the helmet rule amendment that was approved by the league’s owners this May.
The amendment was an effort to change the culture of tackling in the NFL, but the rule may cause more harm than good.
The NFL rule book states, “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.” The consequence is 15 yards for the personal foul. This is the latest effort from the NFL to make the sport of football safer for the players.
This has been an ongoing theme in the past few years when it comes to the concerns of concussions and the links to mental and physical problems of current and retired players. However, a big fear is how it will impact the game’s pace and if a vague rule like this could cost a team a game.
For example, it’s the end of a close game and any one play can determine the outcome of the game. A big 15-yard penalty called against a team at this crucial point could give the other team an advantage to win.
The offensive team is close to scoring, but if the foul is called against the offense it could set them back in yardage, or vice versa if it goes against the defense, it puts the offensive team into the position of scoring the possible winning touchdown.
When this rule came out, people were outraged because they thought it felt like the end of football as we know it. They thought it was going to take away the element of violence in football, which some believe makes the game more enjoyable.
Fans’ anxiety over this new helmet rule would be even more inflamed after the penalties-filled preseason. The NFL’s competition committee later clarified this new helmet rule on Aug. 22 to help referees officiate the game more accurately.
Inadvertent or accidental contact the helmet and/or face mask is no longer considered a foul. Even with this clarification, it is still difficult to regulate the new rule due to the difficult nature of making judgement calls.
It is hard, in full-speed play, to make judgment calls and try to determine what is purposeful and accidental. What may happen is that there will not be sufficient information to make calls in games, so consequently, this penalty may not be called or enforced with the players’ safety in mind.
This leads to the question of if the NFL should stand by this new rule. Could it be one of those things that sounds good on paper but in real life is too difficult to execute?
After 16 games were played in week 1, the amended helmet rule was called once. This doesn’t necessarily mean that players are adjusting to the rule; it just shows that it is becoming too close to call.
At this point in time, it proves to be to difficult to manage and the purpose of the rule is moot.