In continued efforts to make the game safer, the NFL has passed a rule declaring lowering of the helmet to initiate contact will now be a penalty.
This rule is a more exhaustive version of the earlier crown-of-helmet rule, where there would be a 15-yard penalty for leading with the crown of your helmet. It has now become lowering your helmet to initiate contact as a whole. This applies to both defensive and offensive players.
Stephen Jones, a member of the Competition Committee said that the league does a good job catching things like this after the play but want to be better in the moment. This rule is designed to take away any debates about the crown-of-helmet and whether it was used or not. The entire helmet is now considered illegal, making the jobs of the referees easier.
Last season, Ryan Shazier was injured on one of these plays. After lowering his helmet to make a tackle, his helmet was the first thing to make contact with the back of the runner. Unfortunately, this resulted in a spinal cord injury and loss of feelings in his legs. The league needs to make sure things like this don’t happen often, for its longevity.
The NFL has some issues to work out regarding the rule. The biggest question that exists right now is how players can lower their shoulders without lowering their head. Presumably, this would relate the where the contact comes from, if it is contact with the helmet, it will remain a penalty. It is unknown how many of these penalties will lead to ejections or penalties. Answers to any questions regarding the rule should be answered when it is officially introduced.
All in all, this rule is good for NFL player safety as players will begin to have to change the way they play. By these types of plays being call more often, players will exercise more caution.