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The NFL’s new helmet rule is going to cost someone a game

Because nobody seems to know what the hell it actually is

Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots
This wasn’t today’s referee, but he probably doesn’t know what the rule is, either.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

When the National Football League announced this offseason that they were going to crack down on defenders leading with their helmets, there were a lot of people scratching their heads. The NFL was pretty vague about the rule, and it didn’t seem like anyone really knew what made a particular hit a foul.

Now, on the verge of starting the first regular season with the rule in place, there is still confusion reigning. . .even among the people that are supposed to know what the heck is going on.

This is a hit from the fourth quarter of today’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Jacksonville Jaguars, wherein linebacker Antwione Williams comes of the edge completely untouched and sacks Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler.

For some reason, this was called as a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down for the Jaguars when it should have been a significant loss of yardage.

This is an absolutely textbook tackle by Williams. He doesn’t lead with the head, but with his right shoulder. He puts his pads right into Kessler’s rib cage, and takes him to the ground. That’s the way players are taught to tackle from the time they’re taking down tackling bags in junior high, and possibly even before that.

Now, before we you start rolling your eyes, yes. . .I know that this is a preseason game. Yes, I understand that this particular game, and ultimately this play, doesn’t actually mean anything. However, we’re less than three weeks away from the start of the regular season.

Do you think that the NFL is just going to magically unjam their heads from their rear ends in that period of time? Call me skeptical if you wish, but I have my doubts.

The league has done an awful job of defining what this penalty actually is. There have been numerous instances of what appear to be routine hits that have been flagged as unnecessary roughness penalties, and if this carries on into the regular season, it’s going to cost a team a big game in a big spot.

And you know that the odds of it happening to the Vikings are significantly greater than any other team. Because Vikings.

This rule, and it’s poor implementation, is absolutely going to cost a team a game at some point this season. Don’t be surprised when it happens.