I get the sense that most players—at least most defensive players—are on edge this offseason regarding how the game they’ve grown up playing is going to look by the time they take the field this fall. The NFL passed—and is still in the process of finalizing—a new safety rule that even those who passed it have described as significant.
The lowering of the helmet rule will aim to eliminate the use of the helmet as a weapon from the game by making it a penalty to lower the helmet and strike another player. This applies to presumably everyone on the field and at any part of the field in virtually any context.
Some such hits, if egregious enough, will even result in that player being ejected from the game. We learned during the league’s safety summit that one hit from last season was Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka’s hit on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Iloka was penalized for unnecessary roughness during the game, though not ejected. He was suspended for one game after the fact, but appealed successfully and instead was merely fined. The league made clear he would be ejected in 2018, though there hasn’t been talk about how a prior ejection affects a subsequent additional suspension.
The Bengals safety recently talked to reporters about his feelings on the new rule. “I don’t know how you’re going to play the game”, he said. “We’ll still play but we’ll just be getting thrown out I guess. We’ll see. They say things a lot of times”.
Iloka has either been reading up or keeps himself informed because he talked about the implementation of a similar rule aimed at running backs that many thought was going to have a huge impact o the game. “They talked about the running backs and them leading with their head but they called that play one time and those guys, they’re not going to give you the chin. They’re literally taught ‘run behind your pads”’.
He then mocked that lesson, asking what it means. “No, seriously. What does that mean? If you run behind your pads where’s your head? Your pads are in front and your head’s behind you? That doesn’t make sense. Just trying to think about it”.
Iloka’s comments were actually made prior to last week’s summit and thus before the report surfaced that his hit would have resulted in an extension, though it’s unknown if he might have been informed of that himself prior to the summit.
“They put in a lot of things, they say a lot of things, but enforcing it and having an actual way to coach it is a whole other thing”, he summarized, not appearing to be overly worried about how the new legislation will affect his game—and his paycheck. “We’ll see”.