Helmet rule: What’s the big deal?

Mitch Carney

Mitch Carney

The new helmet rule in the NFL has made some waves this pre-season and everybody has an opinion on it.  I personally don’t see why everyone is making such a big deal out of the new rule.  According to Rule 12, section 2, article 8 of the 2018 Official Playing Rules of the National Football League says:

“USE OF THE HELMET. It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. Penalty: Loss of 15 yards. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down. The player may be disqualified.” 

This should be very simple, I have been taught during my entire and very short football career to not lead with the helmet when tackling my opponent.  I have to believe that the pros of the game have been taught this fundamental rule on how to properly tackle, but according to some players the league has taken it too far with this new rule change. In a tweet by Richard Sherman, a corner for the San Francisco 49ers wrote: 

“The rule is idiotic and should be dismissed immediately. When you watch rugby players tackle they are still leading by their head. Will be flag football soon.”

That is where I have to disagree with Mr. Sherman who was of the best corners in the game and has great knowledge about how to play the game of football properly.  One of the most concerning things about playing the game of football is the injuries that happen while playing, most importantly, concussions. The NFL is cracking down on what they believe is unacceptable and it’s not to make football less entertaining, but to make the game more safe for all of the players who get the opportunity to play in NFL. If you still think the NFL should back off the new helmet rule would you rather be an NFL that is as safe as it possibly could be without taking away the physicality, which we all love, or not having an NFL at all. The league cannot go backwards and just ignore the new rule change with all of the backlash they have been getting with the new information about CTE.  

In an interview with Super Bowl LI winning coach for the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, had this to say about the new rule:

 “I think we understand it. I think I understand it, our team looked at probably 25 plays last night. And I think all of us could see those plays, why they were called, and the ones that weren’t called, why they weren’t called. The officials have a tough job to make that judgment, but I think the rule is fairly clear cut. If you lead with your head, and make contact with the opponent then that’s a foul.”

This rule should not be hard for players to get the hang of, especially pros. It may not be ideal because I understand that sometimes your head just gets involved in the tackle, but it’s good that the NFL is being strict about its rule change. The rule will condition its players to not use their heads and maybe after a season or two the NFL refs can back off with the penalties just a little because it won’t be happening much at all, but for right now, I don’t blame them for throwing every flag possible.  

The NFL is not in danger, it will be the same game we love to watch on Sundays, it will probably still have one the highest television ratings this season, and the game will still be entertaining to watch. The new rule is not going to ruin the game, it will make it safer which is good and we should all support that.  We probably won’t even remember all the controversy the helmet rule had by the end of the season, so just enjoy that football season is back.