On Tuesday afternoon, the NFL passed a targeting rule that will attempt to mitigate serious injuries much like the collegiate game with their targeting rule that was instituted in February of 2013. Brian McCarthy, a PR representative for the league, tweeted the language for new targeting rule.
Playing Rule Article 8: It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. The player may be disqualified. Applies to any player anywhere on the field. The player may be disqualified.— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) March 27, 2018
While the rule has been passed, the specifics on the execution and enforcement of the rule are still being formed. Tom Pelissero, a reporter for NFL Network and NFL.com, indicated the goal is to have greater detail around the rule by May. Considering the controversy and outcry from targeting calls in the NCAA, the NFL is likely concerned about refining and clarifying what constitutes a penalty or ejection from play.
The NFL plans to bring coaches, players, et al. to New York in the next couple months as they keep working through enforcement of new rule, what’s ejectable, etc. Hope is to work through everything before May meeting.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 27, 2018
Adam Schefter reported on Tuesday afternoon that Rich McKay, Competition Committee chairman and Atlanta Falcons president and CEO, noted the increase in helmet-to-helmet hits in the last three seasons as a reason the owners decided to approve the new rule.
Rich McKay said helmet-to-helmet hits have increased over the past three years. NFL trying to change that, and the way the game is played at all levels. Don’t want “helmet used as a weapon.”— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 27, 2018
Many defensive players already vocalized their displeasure with the change, including Ravens safety Tony Jefferson, who expressed confusion in response to the news update.
Fans and players alike have expressed concerns about diluting the game by creating rules which stifle the physical nature of the sport. However, vicious collisions like the one between Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier and Bengals receiver Josh Malone have become a growing concern for the league. As the conversation around CTE research and the health of former and current players continues to amplify, the NFL will be forced to adapt and change to preserve the longevity of its players, and ultimately, the game of football itself.
While there will certainly be growing pains for the referees in officiating the rule and for the players in adjusting their game, it may be a necessary evil for the game to evolve and survive.
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