“You can’t hit opponents in the head or neck anymore. Sort of. Sometimes.
The NFL sent a traveling officiating contingent to Eagles training camp yesterday, and that was the upshot of one of the rules changes for 2010.
Basically, the league has tweaked rules that were in place last season, but perhaps in a way that will lead to more debate and confusion over what is or is not a penalty. For example, if a receiver has caught the ball and has not had time to protect himself, a defender can’t launch into him and hit him in the head or neck area. Launching is springing upward and into an opponent; if the receiver has had time to protect himself, or the defender does not “launch,” then there is no foul.
At game speed, that ought to be a real simple judgment.
Of course, with this tweak and several others over the past few years, the NFL is trying to cut down on concussions and head trauma that lead to horrible postfootball neurological problems. But when a tackler “fits” correctly, with his head up, headgear to headgear contact is pretty common. One person in a position to know – who wished to remain anonymous – said he fears defensive players now will start dropping their helmets to avoid helmet-to-helmet contact, opening themselves up to potentially paralyzing neck injuries.
But as referee Walt Coleman noted, in responding to a question about why the league doesn’t just ban blows to the head, period, the competition committee comes up with this stuff, then the owners vote on it. The intent is to keep players safe, not create more controversy, even if the intent isn’t how it plays out.
Also, the ball is dead now if the runner’s helmet comes off, which would have negated that stirring run through the Eagles authored by Dallas’ Jason Witten a few years back, a play that made every highlight roundup in the world.
Under “points of emphasis,” the league would really, really like players to stop pantomiming the throwing of a flag when they feel a penalty is warranted but nothing has been called. Coleman and crew didn’t say what would happen to players who don’t stop doing that.
A few days ago, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said there was nothing new or significant about Moise Fokou, unseated as the starting SAM linebacker after the first day of live hitting, playing with his hand down at defensive end. Yesterday, McDermott finally acknowledged that, yeah, for now, Fokou is a d-end in nickel and dime situations, maybe the old “joker” Jim Johnson used to use as an extra rusher.
Fokou, listed at 6-1, 236, intrigued coaches with his feistiness and athleticism last year, as a seventh-round rookie from Maryland. But it seems they still haven’t quite figured out what to do with him. Akeem Jordan now works with the first unit at SAM.”
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