New NFL helmet rule confuses players

It's finally here. The NFL pre-season gets into full swing today and it's going to be interesting to see how teams - and officials - adjust to the last-minute introduction of rules to the league.  One rule that is still causing issues is the helmet rule, which players have referred to as being ambiguous and unfeasible. 

The rules are meant to reduce the number of concussions seen in the league - a record 281 were reported last season.  However, many players have expressed a variety of opinions on the subject.  D.J. Swearinger, safety for the Redskins, said, "A lot of [players] would rather take their hit up top because they can live to see another day rather than have a knee injury.  If I was an offensive player, I would want to get hit right in my face because I signed up for football. I didn't sign up for basketball. I didn't sign up for soccer. I signed up for football."

The new rule could result in a 15-yard penalty, a fine and even ejection from a game.  However, it's going to create more harm than good.  Redskins tailback Chris Thompson points out, "I get it.  You're trying to make the game safer. But football is a violent sport, and you are not going to be able to take that away from it. You can say, 'I'm going to fine you guys every time you put your head down.' And guys are going to end up broke. It's a natural reaction sometimes."

The chairman of the NFL competition committee, Rich McKay, has heard all of the complaints but isn't wavering from his position that the game will be safer.  He said, "There's no question it's hard on them.  But they need to adjust. We're not doing this to do anything other than [to] make the game safer.  It's for their own protection, realizing that they are still going to say, 'I'm playing the game the way I always played.' Well, there was a time when players were allowed to head slap. I can't imagine that Deacon Jones and those guys were still head-slapping two years later because it was illegal.

"We know there is [sic] going to be calls this year that people are going to complain about it. There's always that, and I feel bad for the officials because they're the ones that always get the scrutiny.  But the adjustment period will be shorter than people think.  I think the players understand that ultimately this rule, and the rules that will develop over the coming years as we see this rule evolve, are all driven by one simple idea, which is the helmet needs to be used as a protective device -- period."

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