Oh, How The Gridiron Has Changed

The National Football League kicked off their 2018/19 season Thursday. Besides all of the party planning, excitement and hatred of the New England Patriots going through everyone’s mind, there is something else lingering in the background–well, two things, actually. These things are two of the new rules added to the league.

For those who aren’t aware, the NFL and all 32 team owners met in May to discuss the rules and drama surrounding the league. They discussed the drama around the national anthem protests, hitting/tackling and more. In the end, a few rules were added and/or changed, but two stand out. Those two are new “helmet” rule and the National Anthem policy.

First, the changed rule: the revision (nicknamed the “helmet” rule) states that any player that who lowers their head to hit/tackle another player will be flagged. If this incident happens more than once or the severity of one hit is major, players can be ejected and/or fined/suspended.

It came to be because of the recent activity of the players. Players have been intentionally and unintentionally hitting each other in the head more than usual. This targeting of the head puts the players at an increased risk of getting concussions. The hope is that the rule will help stop this problem of player concussions. But the regulation has sparked a whole new issue.

The rule has been called excessively throughout the preseason. While it did calm down towards the end, the “initiating contact with the helmet” penalty was called 51 times through the first 33 preseason games. The majority had been called on the defense (41 times), mainly on defensive backs (29 times).

“It’s going to be tough on defenses,” Coach Teal said. “I think the advantage goes to the offenses when you start implementing rules where you take traditional football tackling out of the equation.”

In addition to the changed rule, there was an added directive as well: the National Anthem rule. It states that all players must stand for the playing of the National Anthem before the game. You must do this on the field, however, if you want to continue to side with the protest, then you may stand in the locker room.

For those who don’t remember, all of this controversy started with Colin Kaepernick. In 2016, Kaepernick started to kneel for the National Anthem to protest the treatment of minorities in America. A slew of other players joined in, either in their own way or by kneeling, to support the cause.

This caused some backlash, however, as people took it the wrong way. Most people took the protests as players disrespecting members of the military who fight for the country. This drew a massive debate between the two sides, a debate the NFL and its owners wanted to end. And they tried in late May.

However, as of August 17, the rule has been frozen. Due to complications with the details and the teams, the NFL and the National Football League Players Association have decided to freeze the rule for the time being. With this, the issue is back to square one. One can only imagine what could happen with this rule put on hiatus.

With the helmet rule in the league and the National Anthem policy postponed, fans can only hope and pray. But with these rules, there comes along the new season of football. So, with the new rules in mind, let’s start the tailgating, fantasy football leagues and laughing at your friend as he/she roots for a bad team as we all celebrate that football is here.