Less than five minutes into the preseason, we had our first helmet rule penalty

Yahoo Sports

Mark it down: 4:37 into the 2018 NFL preseason, we had our first helmet rule call. It won’t be the last.

In the first game of the preseason, the annual Hall of Fame game between the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears, we were less than five minutes in when a flag flew after a tackle.

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Let the record show that Ravens linebacker Patrick Onwuasor was the first violator of the helmet rule.

Chicago Bears fullback <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/28556/" data-ylk="slk:Michael Burton">Michael Burton</a> scored a touchdown set up by the first “helmet rule” penalty called by the NFL. (AP)
Chicago Bears fullback Michael Burton scored a touchdown set up by the first “helmet rule” penalty called by the NFL. (AP)

What did Patrick Onwuasor do to get a penalty?

Bears running back Benny Cunningham was being brought down, and Onwuasor came in to finish the play. We’ve seen it a million times. Onwuasor led with his head, and that’s not legal anymore.

While it looked like the same type of play we’ve seen all our lives, it was clearly a foul given the new rule. If a defender lowers his head to initiate contact, that will be a penalty. Onwuasor was given a personal foul, and the Bears moved halfway to the goal line. When NBC showed Onwuasor, he put up his hands like he was confused why he was called for a penalty.

The second helmet rule call came with 12:06 left in the third quarter, on Ravens linebacker Kamalei Correa.

Shortly thereafter, another call involving a similar hit came into play when Bears safety Nick Orr hit Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst in the endzone. The hit went to Hurst’s shoulder, but because Orr led with his helmet, it was deemed a penalty. This one, however, was eventually cited as a defenseless receiver penalty rather than a lowering of the helmet infraction.

The hit gave the Ravens a first-and-goal, and Lamar Jackson found Hurst for a touchdown on the next play.

The new rule has been controversial

The new rule has had controversy attached to it. Players and coaches are confused by the rule, and believe it will be impossible to play defense now. The NFL put it in to help player safety, and it was probably done as a reaction to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier suffering a major neck injury last season when he made a tackle leading with his head.

The new rule will certainly affect games. It’s unclear how often we’ll see the new rule called, but it didn’t take long in the preseason opener.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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