New Helmet Rule in the NFL?

New Helmet Rule in the NFL?

A new NFL rule was approved last month and it is has stirred up some controversy amongst fans, former NFL officials and football lovers alike. The original rule which states that, ‘using any part of a player’s helmet or facemask to butt, spear or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily’ will result in a foul.

Even upon first glance, one could probably decipher that rule fairly easily. However, the rule has become more controversial because the phrase ‘violently or unnecessarily’ has been omitted.  The new rule will read as this:

  • Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8.

  • Use of the Helmet. It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.”

This rule change was intended to simplify the game and remove any ambiguity, like they did with the controversial catch rule earlier in the year. Although, this particular rule could still appear ambiguous to some due to the omission of the phrase ‘violently or unnecessarily’.  The issues that this new ruling could potentially create are the fact that it leaves more questions than answers.

How will NFL officials objectively decide what should be flagged or what should not? Will this affect how players tackle? Will they be too paranoid to tackle due to fear of getting flagged? Will offensive players get flagged for lowering their helmet to gain extra yards? What if players accidentally lower their head and were not intending to do harm?

It is also important to consider the contact that occurs in the trenches, for example, with the three-point stance.  The three-point stance involves a defensive/offensive lineman using their helmet to assist in powering through/ holding ground better – explained by ex NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz.

Some people may argue that it should encourage players and coaches to adopt ‘rugby style’ tackling. This style of tackling teaches the player to lead with the shoulder, wrap both arms around the opponents thighs and lead with the head positioned to the side of the opponents glute.

Not only is this rule potentially confusing for some, but it could come with a costly punishment.  Alongside this new helmet rule comes the ejection standards which can be seen below in the image provided.

It is clear that the NFL is looking to find more ways to protect the players. Especially regarding the controversy surrounding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (otherwise known as CTE). A JAMA study published in July 2017 found that, out of the deceased NFL player’s donated for scientific research, 99 percent of the players had CTE. 111 deceased NFL players were donated and 110 players were found to have CTE.

Debate also sparked last season as Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, Ryan Shazier, suffered a shocking spinal injury against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12. The NFL seemingly want to reduce the amount of unnecessary harmful plays because player health is  important.

According to, Jim Daopoulos, a former NFL official who also spent 12 years supervising officials, does not know how the officials are expected to enforce the rule.

“It’s going to be a tough situation for them to police.”

Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how the NFL officials will be able to ‘police’ this new helmet rule in real time during the upcoming season.


(Cover Photo Source:

(Photo Source: NFL Football Operations Twitter)

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