Is the NFL Ruining Football?
You Heard it Here Last
Fourth down and seven, 1:52 left on the clock and your favorite team is up by two points, with a playoff berth on the line.
The other team throws it short and your star linebacker makes a perfect tackle, but something isn’t right. Your defense isn’t celebrating like they should be. The official on the far side has thrown his flag and your linebacker has his head in his hands.
He didn’t hit the tight end’s helmet, but he did dive head-first, resulting in a fifteen yard penalty and an automatic first down.
Their offense is now in field goal range and they simply milk the clock before trotting out their kicker to put your season to rest.
Many people in the football community have expressed concern that a similar situation will occur this year after the NFL made changes to its helmet rule.
The new rule states; “[it’s] a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.” This means, even if a player lowers his head to make an ankle tackle, or to block at the line of scrimmage, he could be flagged for it.
Officiating of this rule has been inconsistent at best throughout the preseason, and though it’ll likely improve as time goes on, it’s definitely a penalty that’ll make games harder to watch.
So why the change? While they haven’t been transparent throughout this process, it’s clear that the NFL is changing this rule in large part due to Steelers’ linebacker Ryan Shazier’s injury last year.
If you haven’t seen the play, he lowered his helmet into an opponent’s shoulder pads. If you have seen the play, you’ll never forget him going down and grabbing immediately at his lower back.
Shazier has been battling paralysis since and is nearly back to walking normally on his own. However, he’ll likely never play football again and the NFL felt they had to do something.
The previous rule only protected the player being tackled; the NFL changed the rule to protect the tackler.
The new rule will encourage better tackling technique, making the game safer for both sides.
Tyler Dean is a senior studying finance and math.