The new helmet rule is an attempt by the league to make the game safer. In theory, everyone agrees this is a good idea. In practice, it's unclear how officials will implement the rule. And if the preseason is any indication of how the rule will be enforced in the regular season, expect the complaints and conspiracy theories to only increase.
The rule is currently not reviewable, which has only made it more open to criticism. On Friday, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio asked NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron if that might change given the mostly negative response to the implementation of the rule.
"That was discussed by the Competition Committee," Riveron said regarding of possibly using replay. "I know it's been brought up again. But as you know we have rules and bylaws that we have to adhere to. Can that change before we go into the regular season? I don't know but that's part of what the Competition Committee will discuss as we go along here, and there's always the possibility."
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There is no “make adjustment” to the way you tackle. Even in a perfect form tackle the body is led by the head. The rule is idiotic And should be dismissed immediately. When you watch rugby players tackle they are still lead by their head. Will be flag football soon.— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) August 19, 2018
Earlier this month, Sherman.
"They'll see how ridiculous it is, once they make the refs call it," he said at the time. "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. It's going to be a disaster."
And Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger added, "I guess [we can't] hit a guy when he ducks so I guess we just gotta aim for the knees."
"They're trying to have guys healthy when they retire," Talib said earlier this month. "So it's good for the tackler, it's good for the offensive guy."
Talib, who is entering 11th season, also points out that rules changes are nothing new.
"They put an emphasis on something every year, so we've just go to adjust," he said. "That's why we're pros. We adjust on the fly, we adapt to all kinds of situations."
For now, confusion remains and seems to be intensifying. In the Hall of Fame game to open the preseason, Ravens safety Bennett Jackson was flagged for violating the helmet rule -- even though his tackle could be better described as "textbook" -- but the over-officiating was by design, apparently.
"I feel like they're trying to harp on it a lot more in preseason, so they're going to throw flags even on times when it's not necessarily head to head, just to make people aware of it," Jackson said. "I spoke to the ref. He even said, 'Hey, it's preseason, we got to throw the flag.'"
That's all well and good for a meaningless August game played by a bunch of guys who won't be on NFL rosters come September. But that won't fly during a nationally televised regular-season game that winds up costing a team a victory.