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The NFL’s new helmet rule will create controversy all season

Expect players, coaches and fans to be angry regarding the new helmet rule when the NFL regular season begins.

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The NFL’s new helmet rule is going to be center stage when the regular season kicks off on September 6 with the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles taking on the Falcons on Thursday Night Football.

From what we’ve seen so far in the preseason, it’s going to be controversial.

The new rule: It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. Contact does not have to be to an opponent’s head or neck area – lowering the head and initiating contact to an opponent’s torso, hips, and lower body, is also a foul. This rule applies anywhere on the field at any time.​

Penalties for Violation: Loss of 15 yards. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down. The player may also be ejected.

San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman is always willing to provide his opinion on NFL happenings, and quickly made his thoughts known on the helmet rule following the 49ers’ 16-13 loss to the Texans in the second week of the preseason.

”There is no “make adjustment” to the way you tackle,” Sherman Tweeted. “Even in a perfect form tackle the body is led by the head. The rule is idiotic and should be dismissed immediately. When you watch rugby players tackle they are still lead by their head. Will be flag football soon.”

Other NFL players are confused as to how they’ll be able to play within the rules. Eagles safety Rodney McLeod was among those penalized due to the new helmet rule last weekend when he tackled Patriots running back James White, who lowered his head in the process. But it was McLeod, not White who was flagged for the play.

”It is my understanding that it was more so for leading with the crown of your head and more helmet to helmet,” McLeod said directly after the game. “It felt like on that play, I didn’t do either. I went low and led with my shoulder and he (White) saw me coming and he obviously tried to get lower himself. They made the call and I asked the referee why he called it. He said any type of movement where you do lower your head during the preseason they are going to call it. I am hoping when the first game comes about, that a routine tackle like that doesn’t get called.”

If the rule is confusing for players, it’s going to be confusing for everyone. Though, SB Nation writer and former NFL offensive linemen Geoff Schwartz says, “when there are new rules changes, refs hammer them in the preseason and then lay off when the season starts. I see that happening here.”

Former NFL player Emmanuel Acho pointed out that safeties are “literally helpless” when it comes to the NFL’s new helmet rule.

There were many head shaking calls made in preseason games last weekened, one of which came against 49ers running back Raheem Mostert. Watch this play for yourself and see if you think it falls into the category described in the rule above. Mostert’s agent was not happy, Tweeting, “Is this really the way we want to affect the outcome of games this season?”

The helmet rule is sure to impact games this season (which Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has gone on the record to say), and you can count on players, coaches, and fans being angry when the rule costs their team a win. Sure, the NFL needs to take the safety of it’s players incredibly seriously. But the league also needs to consider the way it’s initiating new rules and how players are being educated on the changes made across the league.

One player who doesn’t seem prepared to handle the new rules is Cowboys safety Kavon Frazier who had 33 tackles in 2017 and says he’s “in trouble” based on the new NFL helmet rules.

NFL safeties seem to be among the most concerned. Take for another example Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo who made a pretty great joke out of the situation.

Meanwhile, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin thinks the league office is doing “a nice job” of educating teams and he’s not “ringing the alarm bell.”

You can bet this will be among the top storylines in the NFL this season. Get ready!


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