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New NFL Targeting Rule

I can’t wait to see Twitter explode when Leonard Fournette gets flagged for lowering his head on a defensive back.

March 28, 2018 - 1:07 pm

The 2018 owners meetings has already had a few highlights. There was the annual head coaches’ group photo, always a classic. That’s where the head coaches get together, minus a few guys like Bill Belichick, and take one of the most awkward pics you’ll ever see. 

But after the photo sessions, it was time to get down to business. And that business has included voting on new rules, starting with the new catch rule, which passed 32-0. The catch rule has been sliced and diced for years and I got into it last week, so I don’t need to hash or rehash it again here, but suffice it to say, if it makes things more clear and easier to understand, I’ll be shocked. And again, I’m not a dude who goes off on a problem without proposing a solution. If a player catches the ball, it’s a catch. Period.  That’s what the rule should be. If you need any further assistance with this one, Shield, you know where to find me. 

The real surprise, though, was the announcement of a Playing Rule Article 8. What’s Playing Rule Article 8, you wonder? According to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy on twitter: ‘Playing Rule Article 8: It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. The player may be disqualified. Applies to any player anywhere on the field. The player may be disqualified.’ 

Hello! Looks like we have ourselves a new targeting rule!!. And it apparently, it’s a pretty big freaking deal: NFL Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay said "For us this is a pretty significant change. This one technique, we saw so many hits when a player lowered his head and delivered a hit and either hurt himself or the player he was hitting." 

Players who are flagged for it will be penalized 15 yards and may be ejected depending on the severity. McKay also went on to say: "This has very little requirement to it. This is simply if you lower your head to initiate contact and you make contact with an opponent it's a foul."

So, knowing that, what makes a hit electable or not? Ehhhhhh, let’s not get into that just yet. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets: ‘The NFL plans to bring coaches, players, et al. To New York in the next couple months as they keep working through enforcement of new rule, what’s ejectable, etc. Hope is to work through everything before May meeting.’ 

Uh, what? You have a new rule that includes 15-yard penalties and ejections, but you’re not sure what constitutes an ejectable offense yet? How is that possible? I get that the league wants to continue to improve player safety. That is most definitely the right thing to do, but don’t people want to have a discussion about what is and isn’t going to be ejected before actually voting on it? Don’t want to know what the rule is exactly before enacting it?

And while we don’t know exactly what the rule is, if twitter is any indication, we know that virtually everyone still playing in the NFL and virtually anyone who has ever played in the league, feels about it. They hate it!. Here’s a sampling: Redskins’ cornerback Josh Norman told the USA Today: "I don't know how you're going to play the game. If your helmet comes in contact? How are you going to avoid that if you're in the trenches and hit a running back, facemask to facemask and accidentally graze the helmet? It's obviously going to happen. So I don't know what that definition looks like.’ 

Richard Sherman said: "It's ridiculous. Like telling a driver if you touch the lane lines, you're getting a ticket. (It's) gonna lead to more lower-extremity injuries."

Former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz tweeted: ‘Just don't get the new targeting rule. Intent doesn't matter. The game is freaking fast. It's been a complete disaster in college football. So now you're going to toss someone, fine them and maybe suspend them. Damn. Dudes won't try to tackle.’ 

Hall of Famer Tim Brown got loose on twitter as well: ‘Wow! @NFL new targeting rule looks like a disaster waiting to happen! Unless, the goal is also to activate more players on game day, hope so, teams will need them. I can see @marshawnlynch24 getting thrown out of a game for, wait for it, lowering his helmet! Good luck with that.’

And lastly, Adam Schefter received this text from a former NFL linebacker. “Can't believe how ridiculous this lowering of the head thing is. Go back and watch any game and you will see probably 30 to 50 examples of guys lowering their head on contact. A f***ing mess. Why does the NFL want to self-destruct?”

No, the NFL doesn’t want to self-destruct. It’s just trying to make the game safer. And it has to. I have no issue with that. Or changing the rules.  But how the hell are you going to enforce THAT rule. And how do you vote for something when you don’t know how it will be enforced. Or if it will be enforced. I mean, are defensive players the only ones who are going to be flagged for it or are offensive players who lower their heads to gain more yards going to get flagged, and possibly ejected, as well? 

I can’t wait to see Twitter explode if Derrick Henry or Leonard Fournette gets flagged for lowering their heads on a defensive back. Or if they don’t get flagged for doing that after a linebacker is. And I can’t wait to see players lose their minds if the rule is applied differently to offensive and defensive players, which, by the way is probably going to happen. Because the only thing worse than not having a rule is having a rule that’s unequally enforced. 

Again, I’m all for making the game safer, but how can you eject a guy for lowering his head when it happens on virtually every single play, on both sides of the ball? How does that work? And why didn’t you figure out how it works before you actually, enact the rule?

Until we know more, at this point the only thing you can say for certain about this rule, is that it increases the chances of the Twitter fail whale coming back and I, for one, welcome it. It’s been too long since we saw that big fella and the NFL targeting rule is our best way to get it back. And if you’re waiting on the one thing that could break twitter once and for all, this is probably it.