What the new helmet rule means for the NFL

With a new year of football, comes a new year of rule changes. The start of preseason has made numerous people up in arms over the new ‘use of the helmet’ penalty. Approved back in May by NFL owners, the rule states that “it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.” So what is this form of contact defined under NFL standards? Based off their fact sheet they posted on the use of the helmet when tackling:

1. Player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet.

2. Unobstructed path to his opponent.

3. Unobstructed path to his opponent.

If any of these actions are committed it is automatically a 15-yard penalty or ejection. Also just to be clear this is not limited to the neck and above, if this type of contact happens to any part of the body it too can be called as a penalty. So what could happen with a rule that is supposed to keep players safe and change the culture of the NFL?



Routine tackles are being deemed as “penalties” now, and with so many varieties of this call going on, what is the correct call on the field? As we’ve seen before, the NFL and their referees aren’t good with calls that are left to interpretation, or not a clear definition. This is a problem, because any tackle whether clean or dirty can now be considered a penalty just by how you lead your head. Players from around the league are making it clear they are not happy with the rule change, but will it be enough.


How much will this rule change affect the upcoming season? Will games be dramatically altered because one type of hit is called and the other isn’t? How will players change routine tackles to adjust to the new rule and avoid penalties? The NFL seems to always find a solution to their dramatic new rules, but only after a negative impact has been made.

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