I can’t help but wonder if it was deliberate that the NFL left off the helmet-to-helmet rule from the formal list of proposals that the owners voted on during the Annual League Meeting. Had it been on the official agenda, it would have been more open to the court of public opinion and been harder to pass.
There were reports of the league ‘considering’ a targeting rule similar to the college game, but the impression that was cast around it was that it was just an idea that was floated around like so many others that never actually come to fruition.
Except this one did, and the fact of the matter is that the people who created and approved the rule don’t even really know just how it will play out yet. They know what they intended, but they don’t know how it will operate in practice.
Now it should go without saying that that is always the case. I don’t think they intentionally went into the process planning on screwing up the catch rule, for example, and they probably really thought that they were making things better. And they think this is making things better as well.
Whether or not it does remains to be seen, but Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II clearly articulated his own thoughts about the spirit behind the rule. Speaking at the Annual League Meeting upon its conclusion, he said, “I think the intent of the rule is to prevent players from having the helmet used as a weapon”, according to the team’s website. “It never was intended to be that way. I think we have to do what is necessary to make that correction and change the behavior”.
That sounds good on paper. People have been complaining about players ‘using their helmet as a weapon’ for a long time now, with the frequent yet misguided suggestion that they do away with the helmets entirely because, you know, that will clearly solve the problem.
The language of the legislation is clear in some aspects and vague in others. It talks about the act of lowering the helmet and using it to initiate and make contact with another player, and it applies to all players on the field.
But even Rooney admits that the rule is essentially still incomplete at the moment. “There are still some questions about the administration of the rule, the use of replay in connection with the rule”, he said. “There is still some discussion about the administration of the rule”.
That also includes defining how the letter of the law will be interpreted. The ‘letter of the law’ regarding the old catch rule led to a lot of negative unintended consequences when we saw it put into practice, and people have been widely predicting similar results.
It’s pretty clear to all that there is still some work to be done on this rule when it comes to hammering out and defining the parameters of what is entails.
Obviously. But I don’t think we’re going to be able to get the Jell-O back into the box on this one.