Ex-NFL VP of refs describes one huge problem with the league's new targeting rule

One of the biggest surprises of the NFL's Annual League Meeting last week came when the league's 32 owners unanimously voted to pass a new rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact. 

Under the change, a player will be penalized 15 yards -- and could be subject to ejection -- anytime he lowers his head and uses his helmet to initiate contact against an opponent. Despite the fact that the rule was put in place for player safety, multiple players, including Josh Norman and Richard Shermanhave already come out and ripped the new rule.

Players aren't the only ones baffled by the new rule, though. Mike Pereira also thinks it could pose an issue for officials. Pereira, who once served as the NFL's vice president of officiating, believes the biggest problem with the new rule is that it's going to be "impossible" for officials to handle. 

"I think it's going to be impossible to officiate," Pereira said, via SiriusXM NFL Radio. 

Well, that seems like an issue. It definitely can't be a good thing to have a rule in place that's "impossible to officiate."

The good news for players is that Pereira envisions a scenario where refs just eat their flags instead of penalizing players for lowering their helmets.  

"You'll see the same things happen with this as we've seen with the crown-of-the-helmet rule: very few calls. I think most of it will be taken care of after the fact with potential fines," Pereira said. 

Pereira's biggest problem with the rule seems to be the same problem that the players are having: It's impossible to take your helmet out of the game. To put that in perspective, USA Today's For The Win looked at a Bengals-Steelers game from last season and determined that the new rule could have been called 24 TIMES IN THE FIRST HALF ALONE. That would be an absurd number of personal foul penalties and that can't be what the league wants. 

Pereira said he spoke with the NFL's new head of officiating, Al Riveron, and explained that the league was going down a "slippery slope" with the new rule. 

"There was a push to get to this point that's been going on for a long time, so while I'm surprised, I'm not shocked. There's more to it," Pereira said. "And I talked to Al Riveron after this happened and I said, 'Please explain to me how you look at this and what are you going to say to the officials?' His point to me was that it's relatively simple. Nothing's simple when it comes to they're educating players or whether it's educating coaches or your own officials. This is a slippery slope, because you can't take the head totally out of the game."

Even if players hate the new rule, NFL Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay said it was something that had to be put in place. 

"For us this is a pretty significant change," McKay said at the annual league meeting. "This one technique, we saw so many hits when a player lowered his head and delivered a hit and either hurt himself or the player he was hitting. It was time for a change of this magnitude."

The one thing to keep in mind is that we might not even notice this new rule once the season starts. As Pereira noted, after the crown of the helmet rule was implemented in 2013, there was an initial belief that players would be flagged all the time, but after four years, officials have rarely called the penalty on the field. If that happens with this rule, then you probably won't notice much difference when you watch an NFL game in 2018. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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