Two weeks into the preseason, the new helmet rule is causing an uproar throughout the NFL.
Coaches, players, fans and media are weighing in largely with a dim view of both the all-encompassing nature of the rule that prohibits all players from lowering their head upon making contact and the aggressive manner in which it is being enforced.
‘When you try to make a point of a rule like this, you’re going to get calls that you just don’t want to be made’
Even with all of the controversy, however, former league vice president of officiating Mike Pereira doesn’t believe it will be a problem once the regular season begins.
“I just, at this point, think it’s being over-implemented, if there is such a terminology for that,” Pereira, an NFL rules analyst for Fox Sports, told Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn on the SiriusXM Blitz. “To me, part of preseason has to do with making a point and I think the league has adopted a rule that clearly is about player safety. It’s the biggest player safety rule that I have seen put in in my time with the NFL. And I think they’re trying to make a point of it now. And when you try to make a point of a rule like this, you’re going to get calls that you just don’t want to be made. The officials haven’t had to deal with this before. They worked on defenseless receivers and defenseless players, but not this anywhere, everywhere, everybody (approach) and I think they’re having a tough time adjusting to it.
‘I just wish they would have left it crown of the helmet and not just helmet’
“In my opinion — and I’ve said this before preseason started — I still don’t think it’s going to be that much of an issue once the regular season starts. You’re seeing players adjust and officials will adjust. I just wish they would have left it crown of the helmet and not just helmet, because you’re seeing calls that are made when the head is turned to the side and you’re getting side-of-the-helmet contact with the body. And when you turn your head, you’re basically leading with your shoulders. I think we’re in the shake-out period of the first two weeks of preseason. I think, by the time the regular season rolls around, I really do think we’ll be OK.”
Pereira doesn’t accept the criticism of some that the NFL was hasty in its decision to put tin the NFL rule, that it didn’t give enough thought to the consequences.
‘I was against it, because I thought it would be impossible to officiate’
“I certainly don’t think it was haphazard, because they had me collecting these types of hits, all the way back in 2007 when I was still running the program,” he said. “At that point, they had just the rather narrow rule that said it was illegal to use your helmet to butt, ram or spear. That’s still in the rule book, but they wanted, really at that point, to expand it to really where it is now. And I was against it, because I thought it would be impossible to officiate and I thought it would be impossible to play if you took the head totally out of it.
“But they’ve been doing this now, really, for 11-12 years they’ve been looking at this. And there’s enough significant data, as (current NFL VP of officiating) Al Riveron always talks about, the data, the medical history, that I think the intent is good and I think they finally agreed to take the step. It seemed kind of quickly, but there was a lot of background to it and I do think it’s the right thing.
‘I do think it’s going to stay the rule, but maybe with some adjustment’
“But the needle is too far one way right now. Players are confused. Hey, coaches are on the (NFL) Competition Committee. Richard Sherman says it’s a bunch of suits in New York. Well, there’s coaches and they’ve got input from players, too, so it’s not just Roger Goodell that made this rule. I do think it’s going to stay the rule, but maybe with some adjustment to say, ‘Hey, top of the helmet, crown (is a penalty).’ You’re already saying facemask is OK, already situations — quarterback sneak, that’s OK, so Brady (Quinn) could put his head down like he always did and ram and overpower linebackers on quarterback sneaks.”
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