NFL owners approved a new rule on Tuesday, creating a penalty for any instance of a player lowering his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. A team will be penalized 15 yards, and a player could potentially be ejected. The rule will apply to all players, and expands the crown of the helmet rule.
The NFL has said they will tour the league to discuss the new rule and its implementation. However, there are already responses from defensive players, including new San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman.
Sherman, Josh Norman, Lorenzo Alexander, and others expressed concern about how defensive players will adjust to this new rule. Sherman told USA Today Sports columnist Mike Jones, “It’s 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.”
Green Bay Packers president Mike Murphy is on the competition committee, and he said that of all the film the committee watched, “perhaps five plays in recent years would qualify as a penalty.”
Multiple players brought up a concern with Jones about how referees would decide who is at fault in a given play.
Multiple players expressed concern about split-second decisions, citing an example of a quarterback ducking his head to brace for a hit, and then drawing contact from a pass rusher. They wondered who would be at fault in that case.
This could result in some changes to tackling form, but I imagine we’ll see at least a few instances of penalties called (or not called) that leave people shaking their heads.