NFL: New helmet rule isn't going anywhere, at least not yet

Shalise Manza YoungYahoo Sports Columnist
Yahoo Sports

If you’re among those railing against the NFL’s new helmet rule, which has led to 51 flags in the first 33 preseason games, we have some bad news for you: it’s not going anywhere, at least not this season.

Competition Committee met on Wednesday

The league’s Competition Committee, an eight-man group that includes two team owners, two club presidents, two general managers and two head coaches (but no players) met via conference call on Wednesday to discuss the helmet rule.

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A statement attributed to NFL vice president Troy Vincent said, “The committee reviewed feedback to date from players, coaches and game officials.

San Francisco 49ers cornerback <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/24941/" data-ylk="slk:Richard Sherman">Richard Sherman</a> has been outspoken about the NFL’s new helmet rule. (AP)
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman has been outspoken about the NFL’s new helmet rule. (AP)

“The committee resolved that there will be no changes to the rule as approved by clubs this spring, which includes no additional use of instant replay. The committee also determined that inadvertent or incidental contact with the helmet and/or facemask is not a foul.

“As all adjust to the new rule, we will continue to provide video feedback and examples of fouls and incorrect calls to coaches, players and officials over the next two weeks and throughout the season as this new rule is implemented.”

The part about inadvertent or incidental contact with the helmet and/or facemask is a slight adjustment, though it can’t be easy for an official watching a bang-bang play to determine whether there was intent or something was incidental.

Players, coaches don’t like change

Players, particularly defensive players, have been outspoken about their dislike of the rule, which makes sense since they do most of the tackling and are more likely to be impacted (43 of the 51 penalties called so far have been on defense).

“Even in a perfect form tackle the body is led by the head,” San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman tweeted on Sunday. “The rule is idiotic and should be dismissed immediately. When you watch rugby players they are still (led) by their head. Will be flag football soon.”

The inconsistency in what is and isn’t a foul seems to be a point of contention, and the rule itself was part of the reason why the Chicago Bears and first-round draft pick Roquan Smith wasn’t signed by the start of training camp.

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said last weekend the rule is “going to cost some people some jobs. Playoffs, jobs, the whole bit, I guess.

“We haven’t had any called on us so far. It’s just hard to figure out. No one has ever said to me, ‘hey, don’t worry about it, we’re going to call it less’ or ‘we’ll get it straightened out in the regular season. Or we’re going to come up with a revised rule.’ No one has ever said that.”

It does look like it’s a work in progress, but it’s not going anywhere, at least not this season.

Bill Belichick unbothered

While others have been railing against the rule, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said during a Monday appearance on WEEI radio that he doesn’t think it’s a big deal.

“I would just say, from my standpoint, it’s not a change for us, it’s not a change for our coaching staff. We’ve never taught that. We’ve never taught tackling with the crown of our helmet, putting our head down and leading our body forward in that type of position,” Belichick said.

“I don’t think fundamentally that’s a good position to be in. It’s not effective. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong, besides getting hurt, and that’s an important one. So we’ve always tackled and blocked with our head up, and our eyes open and head back so we can see what we hit. That’s the only way I’ve ever coached it. If we do it that way, we’ll be within the rules, so that’s what we try to teach.”

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