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Patriots finally experienced new helmet rule, and it's as bad as advertised

Alex Reimer
August 17, 2018 - 8:44 am

It took one week, but the Patriots finally witnessed the NFL’s convoluted helmet rule in real time Thursday. After not being called once in the team’s preseason opener, officials blew the whistle four times during the Patriots’ exhibition matchup against the Eagles. At least three of the calls were atrocious.

The NFL recently released a video attempting to clear up some of the confusion about the new mandate. "The Use of Helmet rule is designed to protect players from unnecessary risk. It's illegal to lower your head to initiate contact against an opponent. This rule applies to all players & the entire field,” NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron tweeted Wednesday.

In the first quarter, Eagles safety Rodney McLeod was flagged for lowering his head while trying to tackle James White down the sideline. Their helmets collided, and the whistles were blown. 

It seemingly would’ve been impossible for McLeod to stop White without lowering his head. In order to accomplish that, he probably would’ve been forced to stop and contort his body before even attempting to bring White down. That’s a tough ask for any NFL defender. 

Later in the first quarter, Philadelphia linebacker Nigel Bradham was called for the helmet rule when trying to tackle Julian Edelman over the middle of the field. While Bradham appeared to lower his shoulders, his head dropped, so he was penalized.

Not to be left out, Patriots safety Jordan Richards fell victim to the initiative when he lowered his head and brought down an Eagles pass-catcher with his shoulders. That’s right: Richards didn’t make any contact with the head, and still got penalized.

It's laudable to focus on player safety, but this rule goes way too far. Helmet-to-helmet hits are already illegal. This adds an unnecessary layer, all for the apparent purpose of protecting the NFL in class-action lawsuits. 

Maybe the referees are purposefully calling the game tight in the preseason. Thursday night showed how ugly this could get if the rule is stringently enforced come September.