Much has been made about the impact the NFL’s new helmet-lowering rule might have on the field next year but, if a review of thousands of plays from recent seasons is accurate, it’s been much ado about nothing.
Following a review of 40,000 recent plays, an NFL safety committee found that fewer than five would have been considered an ejection-worthy violation under the new rule.
The new rule – which prohibits the lowering of the head to initiate contact by any player on the field at any time – is still expected to generate an increase in penalty flags, just not in ejections.
There had been concern that a distinction between a player simply lowering their helmet vs. intentionally lowering it to initiate contact with an opponent would not be made by officials, but NFL executive vice Troy Vincent indicated that would not be the case in the upcoming season.
“We want officials to enforce the rule,” Vincent said. “I don’t want to say it’s going to be two, three, five [penalties per game] or whatever. If they see it, call it. … But there were four plays that we saw today that would rise to the level of ejection based on the new rule. That’s it.”