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NFL refuses to admit mistake while admitting mistake

The NFL's new helmet rule hasn't been officially changed, but Mike and Chris explain that NFL's clarification regarding inadvertent contact essentially does change the rule.

The new rule against lowering the helmet to initiate and make contact is very broad and all-encompassing. And the league refuses to change it.

Meanwhile, the league has changed it.

In this age of truth isn’t truth and crime isn’t crime, change isn’t change. Or maybe I should say not change isn’t not change.

NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent drew the short straw on this one, putting his name to a nonsensical, contradictory statement in which he says the rule won’t change while unmistakably changing it.

Here’s the rule, as passed in March: “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.” Eight days ago, I suggested this addition to the rule: “Incidental contact by the player’s helmet with an opponent shall not be a foul.”

Today, the league adopted that language without actually adopting it. Because the league can’t actually adopt it without creating the impression that the league erred in March by not creating an incidental-contact exception in the first place.

“The committee also determined that inadvertent or incidental contact with the helmet and/or facemask is not a foul,” Vincent now says. Which necessarily means that the 21-word rule that makes no allowance for incidental contact has been changed.

The broader question now becomes whether other non-change changes have been made that didn’t make their way into Vincent’s comments. Most importantly, will the rule be limited to contact made by the crown/top of the helmet? While it’s not yet known whether anyone argued for that kind of specificity during the Wednesday conference call, the argument was expected to be made.

Also, with the league specifically not making formal replay review available to fix officiating errors in this regard, will the league allow senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron to use the real-time pipeline to help game officials get the calls right? Hopefully, that will be the case, because with a controversial rule like this one on the books, the last thing the NFL needs is to have this controversial new rule applied incorrectly on a regular basis.