Fans, coaches, players, and probably even officials are wringing their hands and grinding their teeth in frustration and angst over what some are assuming will be the biggest change to the game of football since the Mel Blount Rule. The new rule—yet to be finalized—aimed at policing the use of the helmet as a weapon has provided a great deal of controversy in an already critical offseason for the NFL.
Many fear that the rule is going to be implemented and officiated with extreme prejudice, to the point where we are going to see a number of infractions every game, and frequent ejections, perhaps for a period of years before players finally begin to adapt in the necessary ways to avoid using their helmets to initiate and strike a blow.
Enter Commissioner Roger Goodell to soothe your concerns. Because that’s what he does.
“Our focus is how to take the head out of the game and make sure that we’re using the helmet as protection and it’s not being used as a weapon”, the Washington Post quoted him as saying. “That’s the core of what we’re focused on”.
He warned that players and fans and everybody else should not overreact to what they have heard and read about the rule until all of the details are ironed out. “You’re reacting to players who have not yet heard that dialogue, heard the basis of why we came to where we came”, he said.
The intention is to present every team with the necessary information, including data and analysis behind the change and the causes for the change, “to be able to communicate that to them, and give them an opportunity first to understand what the play is before we make a lot of judgments about the ramifications”.
Goodell made special mention of the potential role that the replay system will have in enforcing the penalty, which is an aspect that many have been, let’s say hesitant to embrace.
“If we’re able to have replay to confirm when there’s one of these fouls that we think should be removed from the game that also confirms whether someone should be ejected, I think there’s a great deal more confidence amongst the coaches that it’ll be done consistently and fair”, he said.
“And I think it also gives the officials more confidence to be able to make those judgments because they know that there will some type of video input in that”, Goodell continued. “I actually think that the coaches and the clubs and our officials all collectively feel that is an appropriate thing to do”.
The intention of the rule, and the intended effect of the rule, I think are clear to most. What people are worried about is how the rule is actually going to be implemented and enforced. There will inevitably be unintended consequences that may require the Competition Committee to come back a year or two from now to try to tweak it again. But it’s coming either way.