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NFL video on helmet penalties fails to clear anything up

Chargers Cardinals Football

Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (92) loses his helmet as he tackles Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (29) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)


The NFL is still working on trying to get everyone on the same page about what is and is not a penalty under the new helmet rules. And the league still has a lot of work to do.

Toward that end, NFL V.P. of Officiating Al Riveron tweeted a video that shows three examples of plays from the first week of the preseason that were not illegal, and three examples of plays that were illegal.

The three legal plays are all easy to identify: Two show tacklers hitting with their shoulders, while one shows a tackler stopping and breaking down with his head up, rather than lowering his helmet to initiate contact.

Unfortunately, the three examples of penalties are much harder to decipher. One shows
Jaguars defensive end Lyndon Johnson coming out of his stance with his helmet lowered and running into a blocker, which is apparently a penalty, although it’s hard to determine exactly why it was a penalty: Johnson didn’t lower his helmet specifically to initiate contact; he simply made contact when his helmet was already lowered.

And oddly, the NFL’s video consists merely of six plays, with no commentary on what makes one play legal and another play illegal, and no closeups or arrows or any other guides for viewers to know what they’re supposed to be looking for. Why wouldn’t the NFL, a multibillion-dollar company with a big media arm, put more effort into producing a video that helps clarify this new rule?

If the replies to Riveron’s tweet are any indication, fans aren’t on board with this new rule. Responses like, “Way to completely not clear that up at all” and “Looks like regular football plays to me” and “Your examples only confused me more. This is a going to be an absolute disaster for the league” were the typical comments.

So the NFL still needs to do a better job of clearing up this rule. Preferably before the regular season starts, three weeks from tomorrow.