Protecting tacklers against helmet hits has become more dicey.
The competition committee’s examination of one week of play last season found five instances where a ball carrier was not protecting the ball or himself and lowered his helmet to make contact with a defender. Dean Blandino, recently promoted to vice president of officiating, noted that five in 16 games was significant enough to consider banning the act.
“In all fairness, it’s going to be tough on the officials, it’s going to be tough to make that determination at live speed with one look,” said coach John Harbaugh of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
“We want to make a serious attempt to get the shoulder back into the game. We are not saying the ball carrier cannot get small. We are not saying the ball carrier cannot protect the football, because if he is going to go down to cover the football, if the shoulder goes down, we know the head goes down, we understand that.
“Protecting the football is OK, providing you do not strike with the crown of your helmet, and that is what we are trying to differentiate.”
Blandino said the league wants flags thrown only on the obvious calls. He also said in cases where a player is not penalized, he could still be subject to a fine if video review after the game determines he made contact with the crown.
The penalty will be a spot foul for 15 yards.
New senior director of officiating Alberto Riveron said if the offensive and defensive player are both committing the foul, it would be an offsetting penalty and the down replayed.
Riveron said the key to officiating the play is in showing the officials more plays that are legal.
“That will be a great way to train because as we know it, most of the shots we have seen are legal, most of the contact is legal,” he said. “We are trying to get that one individual situation where the head is lowered _ and you can see on the field, you can see a player put his head down _ and the contact is with the crown and you can see it.”