Bill Belichick understands controversial helmet rule, says it's not a change for Patriots

The NFL's new helmet targeting rule -- the story of the offseason -- has been chastised by several prominent figures around the league, from players like Richard Sherman to coaches like Mike Zimmer to former league officials like Mike Pereira. But on Monday night, the controversial rule gained a powerful ally: Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

During an interview with WEEI, Belichick said that he not only understands the rule, he also thinks it's "fairly clear cut."

"I think we understand it. I think I understand it," Belichick said. "Our team looked at probably 25 plays last night. And I think all of us could see those plays, why they were called, and the ones that weren't called, why they weren't called. The officials have a tough job to make that judgment, but I think the rule is fairly clear cut. If you lead with your head, and make contact with the opponent then that's a foul." 

The rule, passed in March, penalizes players who lower their head to initiate contact with their helmet against an opponent. It can also lead to ejections. According to a video explainer released by the league in June, to be a ejected, a player must lower "his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the the helmet," a player needs to have "an unobstructed path to his opponent," and the contact has to be "clearly avoidable" in the sense that the "player delivering the blow had other options." 

In theory, the idea behind the rule is a good one considering just much player safety should matter, but it's been somewhat problematic this preseason as officials have tried to enforce it. As an example of the criticism the rule is facing so far, Zimmer recently said that "it's going to cost some people some jobs" while Sherman recently claimed that the tackling technique the NFL is pushing simply isn't possible.

Belichick seemingly disagrees. He added that the rule hasn't led to the Patriots making any changes because they've never taught the kind of tackling technique that is now illegal under the new rule.

"From my standpoint, there's really, it's not a change for us, not a change for our coaching staff," Belichick said. "We've never taught that. We've never taught tackling with the crown of our helmet, putting our head down, and leaning our body forward in that type of position. I don't think fundamentally that's a good position to be in. It's not effective. There's a lot of things that can go wrong besides getting hurt, and that's an important one. So, we've always tackled and blocked with our head up, and our eyes open, and our head back, so we can see what we hit. That's the only way I've ever coached it. If we do it that way then we'll be within the rules. That's what we've tried to teach."

Belichick also doesn't seem to be interested in debating how the rule will be enforced. To him, it doesn't matter how he feels about the rule. All that matters is that it is, in fact, a rule and the Patriots will be forced to play under the rule like the other 31 teams around the league. 

"It doesn't matter whether I like the rule or don't like the rule or what I think the rule should or should be or should or shouldn't be called," Belichick said. "That's not my job. My job is to understand the rule and to coach it."

And now, no one should be surprised when the helmet penalties are added up at the end of the season and the Patriots emerge as the least-penalized team in all of football.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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