Ramon Foster is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ player representative for the NFLPA, so this probably should come as a great shock, but the 10th-year offensive lineman is in support of the league’s new rule this season that is designed to ‘take the helmet out of the game’.
The lowering of the helmet rule, which makes it a penalty if any player—offense or defense—lowers his head for the purpose of initiating contact with another player—is ostensibly an angle toward making the helmet strictly what it was meant to be: a protective device.
“I hate heady guys”, Foster told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette regarding players who utilize their helmets as offensive weapons. He singled out New England Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts as “a heady guy”.
As an offensive lineman, he has been subject to a lot of head-on collisions, both minor and more significant. “Every time has been a d-lineman or a linebacker head first”, he said, so he’s actually looking forward to seeing that officiated.
Foster said that it frustrates him when he sees players using their helmets, saying that there are other ways to play the game. “I’m a hands style, not a head guy”, he said. “I might have a clip out there that’s showing me using my head or something like that, but that’s not my thing, because of the health and welfare of it”.
The problem for him and for other linemen on both sides of the ball is that the league admits it’s going to be much more difficult to officiate the rule between the tackles and in the trenches than it is out in the open field. There will still be plenty of contact that is not called.
Foster compared the rule to a predecessor rule that was designed specifically for running backs in situations in which they used their helmet as a battering ram. He recalled one particular run by former Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer, an impressive run, but later in the week one that earned him a fine.
You can see that run in this YouTube highlight video at the 2:18 mark. The game took place in Week Four of the 2013 season. Dwyer only rushed for 39 yards on 12 carries, but 25 of them came on that late-second-quarter run. the player he bowled over was safety Chris Conte. He was fined $21,000.
This is the type of hit that has already been against the rules for several years now, yet we rarely actually see players penalized or fined. Now all players will be subjected to discipline use of the helmet in this manner, and chances are its implementation will not be nearly as drastic as some fear.
Ideally, the reason for that will be the players adjusting to the new rule and actually avoiding using their helmet. Foster and I’m sure many other players more conscious of their long-term future would greatly appreciate that.