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NFL passes rule to decrease helmet-to-helmet hits, opens up ambiguity

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The NFL simplified the catch rule, and has now complicated the crown of the helmet rule.

The NFL did some positive work on Tuesday in cleaning up the catch rule. It’s still not perfect, but removing the going to the ground language is a big help. However, while cleaning that up, they opened up another can of worms with their crown of the helmet rule.

NFL PR executive Brian McCarthy tweeted out the wording of the new rule, and it leaves a lot open to interpretation.

The previous rule allowed for ejection on flagrant fouls, but the new rule removes the flagrant language. The two more important issues? First, it applies to simply lowering one’s helmet and making contact with an opponent. Second, it applies to any player on the field. Running backs regularly lower the helmet as contact approaches. Quarterbacks sometimes lower their helmet at the end of a sneak or scramble.

There is some speculation that the NFL will enforce this primarily in more egregious manners. But that just adds in more subjectivity to the rule. Either way, this creates problems. Either we have subjective judgements on what exactly is egregious, or we have a huge change in how players need to approach the game. There is something to be said about not leading with the helmet, but this could result in a significant change to football.

The NFL has already indicated that they will bring in players and coaches to discuss what will be ejectable and how this will be enforced. One would think they would talk to them ahead of time, but this seems to be a change on the fly.

We’ll see how this plays out.