Published By Chris Mortensen, 21 August 2018 on espn.com
Amid confusion and angst about the new helmet-contact rule, the NFL is having daily dialogue about the application in preseason games, league sources told ESPN. The league will also assemble an updated video tutorial that will be distributed to game officials, coaches and players once the final preseason games are played and in time for teams preparing for their regular-season openers, according to sources.
The implementation of the NFL’s new helmet rule this preseason has drawn criticism from players and coaches, including the Vikings’ Mike Zimmer, who believes “it’s going to cost some people some jobs — playoffs, jobs, the whole bit I’m guessing.”
The helmet rule is expected to dominate a previously scheduled conference call Wednesday for an expanded discussion among league officials. News of the conference call was first reported by Pro Football Talk.
The revised video will be prepared by Al Riveron, the league’s vice president of officials, with assistance from other league executives. It will include proper and erroneous applications by game officials, which one source said has generated a “predictable hysteria” because it is the first time the new rule is being officiated.
The rule that was expanded in May prohibits players from initiating contact with the helmet. One influential league source said NFL is looking at a “probable three-year” adjustment to the new emphasis that will change behavior with consistent application. The source said it is about the same time window that resulted in player-behavioral change when the league cracked down on hitting defenseless players.
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical director and neurosurgeon, noted to ESPN on Monday that while the new rule is an adjustment for officials, coaches and players, the head-and-neck injury data has been notable enough that “we want to send a consistent message that the helmet is not a weapon, but it is worn for protection, and it is for the well-being of the players who initiate the contact, not just the players on the receiving end.”