- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2018

The NFL clarified a portion of its controversial helmet rule Wednesday — potentially altering how the rule will be called in the future. 

In a statement, NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said, “Inadvertent or incidental contact with the helmet and/or facemask is not a foul.”

As ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio pointed out, the use of “inadvertent” gives officials some wiggle room on when (or when not) to blow the whistle. Per Florio: 

In other words, it’s possible that the hit won’t be regarded as something other than incidental or inadvertent unless the players lowers his head and makes forcible contact with the top/crown of the helmet against an opponent.

So the rule that the NFL insists it didn’t change has actually been overhauled, if the word “inadvertent” is given its plain and obvious meaning, and if the search for inadvertent contact unfolds through the application of basic logic and common sense. While awkward and clumsy in form, it’s potentially encouraging in result, because it could mean that penalties will be called only when the player lowers his head and delivers a forceful blow with the top of his helmet, and not when any type of helmet contact occurs after the player adopts a posture that could lead to a forbidden hit.

The helmet rule, which penalizes players for lowering their head and making contact with the helmet, has been largely unpopular with NFL players and coaches.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden recently said, “we’re still going to have some issues” with the rule, given how it’s been called. 

ESPN reported that of the 51 times the penalty has been called this preseason, 11 were found to be erroneous. 

But the NFL also said Wednesday the rule won’t significantly change for this season, meaning referees won’t be able to review the penalty in real time. 

It remains to be seen how the rule affects games in the regular season. There is also some belief that the penalty won’t be called as frequently once the season begins. 

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