One of the things to watch with the San Francisco 49ers heading into 2018 will be how the defense adjusts to the recently updated helmet ruling. The league has finalized a new rule that on paper is supposed to stop players from leading with their head and weaponizing their helmet. The rule would involve 15-yard penalties and ejections if used improperly, and replay can be used to determine if ejections are necessary.
The rule states: “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.” For those of you who want a better definition, you can head to a good write-up here.
On paper, it makes sense. On the field is a different story. Especially with the way a defender may drive into a ball carrier, dive, etc. And San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman knows just how crazy things are going to get with enforcing this new rule. Sherman spoke to USA Today Sports to give some thoughts on the upcoming season and his voiced his opinion onthe rule:
“It’s ridiculous,” Sherman told USA TODAY Sports during a training camp break. “They’ll see how ridiculous it is, once they make the refs call it. It’s going to be worse than holding, worse than the catch rule. On a good form tackle, guys will lead with their shoulder pads, but you bring your head.
The secondary and linebackers are probably going to have the biggest issue with this rule as they will be tackling in open space more than say a defensive tackle who is shedding a block to latch onto the quarterback or a running back. The first time Sherman takes a dive to knock down a ball carrier could result in a flag and a possible ejection.
The post I linked above outlining the rule also has a gif of what looks like a perfectly find form tackle, where the head got involved. I’d guess there’d be some consequences for that.
Like I said, on paper this makes sense. The NFL is getting flack left and right for the recent research in CTE/head trauma and they will of course do whatever they can do to save face and make it look like they are protecting their players. Adding replay in for ejections is a good start.
Though, it’s a bit strange that they will use replay for this, but not to find out which player started a fight.