NFL Rule Change Now Makes Head To Head Contact Illegal

Oh boy, the NFL may have just changed everything. Shortly after fixing their broken catch rule, the league passed a separate rule today that makes all helmet to helmet contact illegal with the possibility of ejection. Here’s the official word from NFL PR Man Brian McCarthy.

More on the rule change.

To recap. Dropping your head and making contact with someone else’s is now a penalty across the board. Doesn’t matter the position, doesn’t matter the context, no longer does a player have to be considered “defenseless” to draw a flag.

The league says they’re still working on exactly how the rule will work, though that was probably something they should’ve done before passing the rule in the first place. The rule was created by the competition committee, which Mike Tomlin is part of, according to the league’s official document. 

It’s fair to argue the rule is well-intentioned. No one wants to see these vicious type of hits happen. But how well will the NFL legislate it? McCarthy says these penalties “may” result in ejection. What qualifies as an ejection? That, so far, seems incredibly subjective. You could compare this rule change to college football’s targeting system, which has led to plenty of controversy and outrage.

It may have been Ryan Shazier’s hit on Josh Malone, the one that left Shazier paralyzed, as the catalyst for the rule change. That hit would now be deemed illegal.

But how much further does it go? A running back lowering his helmet? Is that a penalty? A defensive linemen catching the helmet of a back in the middle of a tackle? A quarterback sneak, which basically by definition involves the QB lowering his helmet into everyone else’s.

The NFL also took out the “flagrant” language in its assessment for ejection. Meaning, a penalty doesn’t have to be flagrant to get a player tossed. The league doesn’t indicate what has to happen to lead to an ejection, however.

With all the trouble the NFL has had policing rule changes, communicating them effectively, and calling them consistently, this is shaping up to be a mess in 2018. Buckle up.

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