The NFL concluded a two-day summit yesterday gathering a number of coaches, owners, officials, and others, including former players, for the purpose of discussing some important topics related to the safety of the game going forward.
The big discussion of the first day of the summit was about the still-mercurial lowering of the helmet rule, which was partially passed during the Annual League Meeting but still needs final approval for certain aspects.
As I talked about yesterday, there are still some pretty important grey areas surrounding the rule, and the language continues to finalized. The owners will have to vote on a final wording of the replay aspect of the rule later this month to determine how video will be integrated into the ejection process.
NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told Jarrett Bell of USA Today that there were five hits from last season that would have resulted in ejections from the game based on the new lowering the helmet rule, and one of them would have been Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka’s hit on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
According to a Washington Post article, the league informed those who participated in the summit that their research found an average of about five violations of the lowering the helmet rule per game in a review of last season’s contests, but “that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be five such penalties called per game”.
The article also says they are confident that officials will be more than up to the task of enforcing the rule on plays that occur in the open field, but they acknowledge that it will be much more challenging to officiate the ruling in the trenches.
Bell provided a very interesting anecdote that explains how ephemeral the situation still is, and likely will remain for several more months at least. There was a video shown during the summit of a fullback picking up a blitz.
Head of officiating Al Riveron argued that under the new rule that blitz pickup would have been an illegal block, but Los Angeles Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn was able to convince him otherwise. In other words, literally, yes, the league is still figuring out what the rule is.
“That’s the whole point of universal videotapes”, the Falcons’ head coach told the paper. “As long as we know what the rule is, we can coach it and the players can comply”. It is going to be vital that the league supplies all teams with very clear videos demonstrating a variety of examples of what is and is not legal so that they can properly train their players.