We still don’t know all the details about the new rule that was passed during the Annual League Meeting that makes it a penalty for any player on the field to lower his head with the intention of making contact. Those who formulated and voted on it admit as much, saying that there is still work to be done to sort out how it will be implemented.
But one of the people primarily responsible for the rule being written and passing believes that it is going to result in a significant change, and that would be Rich McKay, the head of the Competition Committee.
“It’s a substantial change for us”, he said on SiriusXM Radio. “In my years on the committee, and in the league, we’ve done everything we could to situationally protect players. Players that were in a dangerous posture; players that were unable to protect themselves”.
McKay had quite a lot to say on the subject, actually, and I think he said it well, so I will allow him to do the communicating here. “We’ve done some really good things because you’ve seen techniques change, you’ve seen people lower their targets; they don’t go to the head”, he said of how the rule changes over the years have influenced player approaches.
“What we did this year is we spent a lot of time looking at the last three years of injury data and we specifically saw that there’s a lot more helmet-to-helmet concussions, and then we saw on the tape a very consistent pattern”.
He said that “what’s creating this is a dangerous act by a player, which is the lowering of the head, creating a different spine angle and delivering a blow”, pointing out that “the blow is equally as dangerous to the person delivering it as to the person it’s getting delivered to”.
The Competition Committee chairman talked about how so much of the rule-change focus has been on targeting specific areas of protection. “We need to get out of situational protection. We need to protect all players at all times, and say that technique is not allowed”, he continued. “So if you lower your head to initiate contact, and initiate, that’s a foul”.
Notably, he differentiated it from a player in a defensive position lowering his head. “If it’s a defensive mechanism and you’re down in a crouched position”, he said, “you’re not attempting to initiate contact, you’re not delivering a blow”. He seems to be implying that this would not be penalized.
McKay wrapped up by noting that there was a discussion when the helmet first came into the game about what it might lead to, and that is, frankly, what we see today, with the helmet being used as a weapon, whether by intention or happenstance.
“The helmet, by design, was a protective device”, he said. “We’re allowing people to get much more comfortable in their necks and their ability to deliver a blow. We’ve allowed the helmet to get a more a point of the game. This is a pretty substantial step backwards in saying, ‘take it out of the game’.