Putting safety first

LATROBE, Pa. –The rule has been put into place for one reason.


The NFL sets the standard for football, and the rule that was put into place this offseason regarding lowering of the helmet, is one that is now the standard in the game.

The rule, approved by NFL ownership in March, states it's a foul "If a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent." The rule goes on to say that contact does not have to be to an opponent's head or neck area. The foul is lowering the head to make contact with the helmet anywhere, including the opponent's torso, hips, and lower body.

The immediate action will be a 15-yard penalty and a first down. It could also result in ejection based on the following standards:

1.   Player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet
2. Unobstructed path to his opponent
3. Contact clearly avoidable and player delivering the blow had other options

To teach the techniques, the NFL established 'NFL Way to Play,' an education series about the proper use of the helmet to protect players from injury on all levels. It includes instructional videos from NFL head coaches and former players, as well as offseason training for coaches and NFL officials visiting team's training camp to educate the players.
"The helmet thing is for all 22 players," said Tony Steratore while visiting Steelers training camp. "Quarterbacks can't lead with the crown of their helmets into a defender. No other player on the field, nobody at any time, can legally lead with the crown of their helmet and initiate contact on an opponent to any part of his body, which the video also referred to. This isn't just for crown to helmet, helmet to helmet. That stuff has been in. That hasn't changed. That's going to continue obviously, but this also goes, you can't lead with the crown of your helmet into the chest of a player or into the thigh or hips of a player. Obviously, that protects the guy who's making the hit as well as the guy who's receiving the hit. So when they talk about linear posture – and that's something that we'll be looking at as officials that we can do in real time – when we talk about linear posture we're saying your spine, your neck and your head. If we see that in a linear, horizontal posture, if you see that player who's looking down at the ground, he's going to get himself in a linear, dangerous position. We want that out of the game.

"We're behind that 100 percent. I think a lot has been made of the rule from difficulty in officiating, consistency, all those sorts of things, and I can tell you in 19 years, every single play in this League is a difficult play. It's difficult to officiate. These guys are some of the best athletes in the world. But we're looking forward to the challenge from an officiating standpoint to do our part to make the game safer and better for everybody."