Goodell defends new ‘helmets-up’ rule, as current and former NFL players fume
ORLANDO, Fla. – Everyone involved in the NFL, including commissioner Roger Goodell, was coming to grips Wednesday with the potentially game-altering rule passed by owners Tuesday.
That is, the rule that for now reads, simply: “Lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet is now a foul.”
It pertains to all players on the field at any time – on offence, defence or on either side in special teams.
No one but those inside the NFL knew the rule had been in the works before its surprise unveiling late Tuesday afternoon.
Shocked players and former players alike sounded off overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday.
“Wow! @NFL new targeting rule looks like a disaster waiting to happen!” tweeted Hall of Fame receiver Tim Brown. “Unless, the goal is also to activate more players on game day. Hope so, teams will need them. I can see @MarshawnLynch24 getting thrown out of a game for, wait for it, lowering his helmet! Good luck with that.”
Tim Brown (@81TimBrown) March 28, 2018
Another former longtime NFL receiver, Ed McCaffrey, tweeted: “Just when the NFL makes progress on the ‘Catch’ rule, we get the ‘Helmet’ rule. They way it’s written is very subjective and almost impossible to consistently enforce. Uuuuuuuugggghhhhh!”
Just when the NFL makes progress on the “Catch” rule we get the “Helmet” rule. The way it’s written is very subject… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…—
Ed McCaffrey (@87ed) March 28, 2018
Current players, too, sounded angry and confused. The San Francisco 49ers’ newly signed cornerback Richard Sherman told USA Today the new helmet-down rule is “ridiculous … Like telling a driver if you touch the lane lines you’re getting a ticket. (It’s) gonna lead to more lower-extremity injuries.”
Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman agreed: “I don’t know how you’re going to play the game.”
Goodell, at his Wednesday afternoon news conference that closed the four-day annual meeting, as much categorized these as over-reactions. He said the support for the new rule among head coaches who met here was “unanimous,” and indeed not a dissenting word has been spoken about the rule by any coaches who chose to publicly comment on it here.
The chair of the NFL’s competition committee, Atlanta Falcons executive Rich McKay, said Tuesday “the coaches were most vociferous about, ‘Hey listen, this needs to change. The tactic needs to change, and we’re ready for change.’”
NFL coaches are of the belief that traditional, head-up tackling won’t be affected one bit by the new rule. Such pro coaches for years have been teaching players not to employ unsafe manners of tackling, such as leading with the head down; it can be extremely dangerous, not so much for the tackled player as for the tackler, who is far more likely to jam his spine on such impacts.
Twice at Goodell’s Wednesday news conference he defended the new helmets-up rule from the criticisms of players.
“Players haven’t even had the chance to hear the discussions that we’ve had,” Goodell said. “Our intention is to go in, visit each team,” then show them all the reasons why head-down hits are dangerous to them, and bad for the game.
“I’m confident … our game will be in a much better place for it,” Goodell said.
At Tuesday’s rule-announcement news conference, league medical leaders pointed out that concussions caused by head-to-head hits were up substantially last season, from just two seasons earlier.
“We think this (new rule) is going to help us take the helmet out of the game,” Goodell said, presumably meaning what McKay said the day before in saying this rule should forever remove from the game using the helmet as a weapon.
NFL owners pass other rules, bylaws
ORLANDO, Fla. – In addition to the new catch rule and their latest kettle of fish that bans all players from leading into contact with the head down (which I wrote about in detail yesterday), NFL owners wrapped the league’s annual meeting Wednesday by passing numerous other changes.
The five other new playing rules are:
- Bringing the ball out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20 after a touchback is now permanent.
- The penalty is now the same (10-yard loss) for both batting or punching a loose ball as well as kicking it.
- Central replay command centre in New York can order game officials to eject a player for a flagrant non-football act, such as when New England tight end Rob Gronkowski jumped on an unaware, defenceless, laid-out Buffalo defensive back.
- The league will no longer force a team that wins on a last-play touchdown to kick the extra point.
- If there is a turnover on the second possession of overtime, a team may win even though it scores on its second possession. Until now, as the rules were written, a team that didn’t score a touchdown on the opening OT possession could not win by returning a turnover for a score on the ensuing possession by the other team; the game would have ended on the turnover, rather than at the end of the play.
What’s more, nine of 12 by-law proposals were passed, as well as one of four resolution proposals. Most aren’t big issues. For instance, one new bylaw liberalizes the rule for reacquiring a waived player. Another allows players on IR to be traded.
WEDNESDAY TRADES: The year of the trade in the NFL continued Wednesday.
Cleveland dealt 2016 rookie starting quarterback and occasional 2017 backup Cody Kessler to Jacksonville, for a conditional 2019 seventh-round pick. Kessler was a third-round pick (93rd overall) in 2016.
And Washington traded safety Su’a Cravens, a 2018 fourth-round draft pick (113th overall) and a 2018 fifth-rounder (149th) to Denver, for the Broncos’ 2018 fourth-rounder (109th), two 2018 fifth-rounders (142nd and 163rd) and a 2020 conditional sixth-rounder.