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Sunday, February 05, 2023

Hey all you NFL players, it’s finally time.

Time to lace up your customized cleats, put on your polished helmets and head to… anatomy class?

That’s what we’re gonna need this season.

An actual course that explains to fans, players, coaches and officials how players are expected to tackle under the NFL’s new helmet rule.

For some context, the league announced in March it plans to implement a new safety rule that prohibits players from lowering their heads and initiating contact with the helmet to any part of another player.

If any player does this, it’s an automatic 15-yard penalty.

And on Wednesday, the NFL Competition Committee released a statement saying it would not alter the new rule.

That came after immense backlash from defensive players, coaches and football fans who argue that the rule makes tackling nearly impossible and slows down the pace of the game.

And I agree.

Since they were old enough to put on pads these players have been taught that the fundamentals of tackling are simple: Keep your head up, wrap up the ball carrier and take him to the ground.

Now, I don’t think any normal person opposes making football safer for everyone involved.

But what the NFL seems to be asking players to do with their bodies is not only anatomically unnatural, but makes officiating extremely subjective and leaves too much grey area.

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If the league cared so much about the safety of its players, it would listen to their pleas to eliminate Thursday Night Football or shorten the preseason.

But what does it do instead?

It goes and signs a five-year deal with Fox to air TNF games, effectively saying Thursday Night Football ain’t going anywhere and y'all will deal.

Therefore, I can’t blame players like 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman for being outraged at the NFL’s scanty and confusing attempts at being safety conscious: Be safe, but do so in a way that doesn’t cost us money.

One adjustment was made on Wednesday in regard to the rule, though. The competition committee stated that “inadvertent or incidental contact with the helmet and/or facemask is not a foul.”

Perhaps that was a response to the 51 flags that have been thrown through two weeks of preseason action -- that’s 33 games -- under this new rule, with already the most ridiculous call of the season happening during a Vikings and Jaguars game last Saturday.

Vikings linebacker Antwione Williams was flagged for roughing the passer and given a 15-yard penalty after he sacked Jags backup Cody Kessler during the fourth quarter of the game.

But if you watched the play, Williams simply put his body weight on Kessler to take him to the ground. You know, like you do when you tackle someone.

Granted, it was a hard tackle, but nevertheless it didn’t warrant the penalty.

Still, he was fined $20,054 dollars for the play. Why? Because the league loves safety!

So NFL, if this is what I can expect from football this upcoming season, keep it.

 

Alanis Thames is a sports writer. You can follow her on Twitter @alanisthames or contact her at athames@alligator.org

 

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