Sometimes you have a great, and even a noble, idea, but it has no practical way of working. It certainly appears that that is the case with what the NFL decided Tuesday at the owner’s meetings in Orlando, regarding players using their head to make contact with an opponent.
Most fans and observers in the NFL did not know or realize that this was going to be a topic, and then quickly voted on, however, that’s exactly what happened Tuesday.
So, in the name of player safety and they are trying to get more clearly defined: what is a foul? And here’s what the NFL has now come up with starting in 2018, as a rule:
Playing Rule Article 8: It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. The player may be disqualified. Applies to any player anywhere on the field. The player may be disqualified.
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) March 27, 2018
That means that hits like the one above from Jaguars safety Barry Church on Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski in the AFC Championship game, would be illegal from the beginning. This is because the player (Church) was leading with his helmet in the first place. Never mind, if the contact was actually high (above the shoulders) or in the head area. That’s what Church was flagged 15 yards for in January and Gronk left the game with a concussion and did not return.
We aren’t talking about that.
The rule now is: you cannot lead with your head. At all.
Not just the crown of your head, but your helmet and your head cannot be used as first contact.
Here’s the bigger problem: enforcement.
Not only will the officials on the field be responsible for throwing a flag, and potentially ejecting players because of this rule, but now the replay system and the command center in New York will be able to review and potentially eject players, for this as well.
For example, Church would likely be ejected in 2018 for that Gronkowski hit.
We at F.F.I. can totally foresee a nightmare of multiple flags per game for this foul, including on offensive players who are trying to make first contact with a defender and sticking their head out in doing so.
Again, player safety is a very important thing.
And the intent of what the NFL passed Tuesday is good, but the practicality of making it work appears to us to be a nightmare in the making.
Just wait until crucial star players are ejected, because of this rule. Not for a helmet-to-helmet intentional collisions or something totally unsafe, but simply for leading with their head first at contact.
You want to hear screaming?
Don’t say you weren’t warned.
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