October 25, 2011 Leave a comment
Every year the NFL always changes or adds some type of new rule to the book and then as a result it causes confusion to the players, coaches, and referees. The only difference is that this rule, helmet to helmet contact, has been around.
The NFL’s rule of helmet to helmet hits is a long very confusing process that defines a very fine line of what’s right and what’s wrong. So here’s a short summary of it: A defenseless player will be defined as a quarterback in the act of passing, A wide receiver in the act of making a catch, a kick or punt returner in the act of making a catch, a runner who is in the grass or whose forward progress has been stopped, a player on the ground at the end of the play, a QB after a change of possession, and a kicker or punter after the ball is kicked. Violations will result in a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty.
Confusing right? We know, and the worst part is that the above paragraph is only just a summary. The helmet to helmet rule which is very detailed in length has caused so much confusion and controversy in the NFL that referees can’t even get right.
Last week during three games, the Cleveland Browns vs. the Seattle Seahawks, the Green Bay Packers vs. the Minnesota Vikings, and the Baltimore Ravens vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars all had a helmet to helmet penalty called in their game and after further review, the penalty flag should’ve never have been thrown.
In the Cleveland, Seattle game a flag was thrown in the first quarter for unnecessary roughness when Seattle safety, Kam Chancellor made what appeared to be a sack on Colt McCoy forcing the Browns to a fourth down but instead was ruled as a helmet to helmet hit, resulting in a 15 yard penalty, automatic first down.
As you can clearly see from the picture above, Chancellor’s head is no where near McCoy’s head therefore there should’ve been no penalty, fourth down for Cleveland. Chancellor did everything right on the play, he timed it perfectly, hit McCoy from behind and most importantly he hit him right in the numbers; a perfect tackle/sack that shouldn’t have resulted in a penalty.
Next up was a 3rd down and 13 for the Vikings when Clay Mathews rushed Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder. While rushing Ponder it appeared that Mathews first was blocked in the back before he recovered and eventually appeared to tackle Ponder. The referee felt differently as he threw the flag and a 15 yard penalty was tacked on. Broadcaster Troy Aikman felt differently about it too as he said, “I don’t know about that — I think that’s a bad call.”
As you can see from the picture above there’s no helmet to helmet contact at all. You can clearly see that Mathews (in the white) makes a perfect tackle on Ponder (in the purple) right between the numbers.
Last but certainly not least was on Monday night on a controversial game changing drive. The Jaguars had the ball on a 3rd and 7 where the pass was thrown to running back Deji Karim over the middle where safety Bernard Pollard landed a tackle on Karim forcing him to drop the ball. The play was then ruled as an unnecessary roughness call, helmet to helmet, 15 yard penalty automatic first down. The Jaguars would go onto make a field goal on that drive in what may have changed the game which gave the Jaguars the win.
As seen in the video Pollard lands a clean tackle right in between the numbers of Karim not connecting with his helmet at all. ESPN analyst, John Gruden couldn’t have said it any better “It’s just football.”
Now to the referees defense, making the right call in the moment of it all happening is very hard to do, don’t get me wrong. However, since it’s such a complex, very detailed rule, in the event of a helmet to helmet contact, the referee(s) should huddle together and review the play in the replay booth to make sure the call their making is correct.