The NFL’s head of officiating doesn’t want the league’s ever-increasing efforts to make the game safer to be misunderstood.
Yes, the NFL has revamped the rules for the kickoff that reduce the speed and space in which the play is made — effectively making it more closely resemble a punt — with the elimination of double-team blocking and the wedge. Yes, it has banned players from lowering their helmets and making contact with an opponent.
‘The bar hasn’t changed’
However, as both areas were addressed during the league’s spring meeting in Atlanta this week, NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron wanted to make it clear that neither he nor his officiating crews are going to be making a sweeping effort to toss violating players from games.
“I don’t want anyone to think it’s going to be an ejection-fest. It’s not,” Riveron told Alex Marvez on Late Hits. “The bar hasn’t changed. … Everyone thinks now when we have one of these fouls, it’s an automatic ejection. It’s not. We have a certain bar that has to be met, in this particular rule, for a player to be ejected. For example, an unobstructed path to an opponent and then you have to make contact with an opponent. If that player has other options and he still proceeds through that unobstructed path and he doesn’t take the other options, now we’re looking to a foul that might rise to the level of an ejection.
‘We’re basically going to ask our TV partners to help us real quickly’
“When you (talk) about ejections being overturned or looked at in New York, one of the proposals on the table that’s going to be voted on this week is, No. 1, when it comes to the helmet rule — and not (just) the helmet rule, really any other ejection on the field is reviewable by us in New York. We’re not going to stop play, we’re not going to have the referee come over. We’re basically going to ask our TV partners to help us real quickly to get as many possible angles to us in New York that we can to make a decision and then we go from there.”
Another misnomer, according to Riveron, is that the league was looking to eliminate kickoffs from the game. “No one ever really wanted to get the kickoff out of the game, but we still wanted to make it a meaningful play,” he said.
‘We’ve seen where concussions involving helmets in the last three years have gone from the low 30s to almost 50 percent’
As for what drove the NFL to prohibit players from lowering their helmets to make contact, Riveron said it came down to extensive research. And there was no disputing what it indicated.
“We have the data now for X-amount of years that show us that, really, unnecessary helmet use is something we need to get out of the game,” he said. “That’s just the bottom line. We’ve seen where concussions involving helmets in the last three years have gone from the low 30s to almost 50 percent. And when that data is given to us and over the years, we’ve made several changes and now it’s gotten to the point where, yes, this is a huge change going into football. You must lower your head to initiate contact to an opponent and you must make contact.
‘Are we going to see a few more fouls? Obviously, we will’
“When we see a player lowering their head, our officials will immediately be on the lookout for that and then to initiate contact with an opponent and, finally, make contact. Are we going to see a few more fouls? Obviously, we will, but again when we brought in the defenseless player category X-amount of years ago, everybody said it couldn’t be done. Our players and coaches are the best in the world at adapting. We will adapt to this, too.
“And it’s not so much about what happens on Sundays, but it’s the education portion of it, too. We’ve got to get into the college ranks, we’ve got to get into the high school ranks and we’ve got to get into the Pop Warner and youth league level. We have to start the education process early in order to be successful and make sure we keep unnecessary helmet contact out of our game.”
Music, Sports, News and more
All in one place on the SiriusXM app