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Bengals are concerned about the new helmet rule

Shawn Williams, Nick Vigil and Marvin Lewis share their concerns about the widely criticized helmet contact rule.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Green Bay Packers Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL released an update on their helmet rule recently.

The biggest change, for those who don’t speak lawyer, is that now it doesn’t matter if a player lowering his helmet hits the opposing players’ helmet, body or whatever else. It is the act of using the crown of the helmet as a means of making the hit that will draw a flag.

Whenever the NFL makes any sort of rule to make the game safer, there is a predictable uproar, and it is pretty understandable that the players would be upset. They have learned how to play the game a certain for probably most of their lives, and now all of the sudden, they have to change how they are doing something that is basically a habit at this point.

A couple of Bengals and head coach Marvin Lewis recently shared their displeasure about the rule with Geoff Hobson of the Bengals’ official site.

“It kind of took everybody by surprise. You have to change the way you play the game. I guess they have to clarify what is an illegal hit and what’s not,” linebacker Nick Vigil told Hobson. “But it’s going to take some time for people to adjust. You might see a lot of penalties early in the year, I guess, I don’t know. Your head makes contact most of the time first before anything else.”

There will be a feeling out period for players and refs with this rule. There should be plenty of players seeing what they can get away with as well as refs calling penalties they shouldn’t. The refs and players will likely get word from the league office about whether those plays were actually penalties or not.

“It becomes a judgment thing. It’s going to be a thing that’s debated all the time on television. It already is,” Lewis told Hobson. “They’re acting like it’s a thing bigger than it is. So it’s already gotten out of control.”

It is fair to argue this takes a lot of the judgement out of the targeting penalty. Refs will no longer be forced to determine whether a defender lowered his helmet to hit the other player’s helmet. Now, it is just a matter of whether the player lowered his helmet or now. It is obviously still going to be a judgement call, but there is one less thing to consider there.

Shawn Williams is a little more drastic in his criticism, whether it is intended or not.

“They’ve said you can’t lower your head, but running backs do it all the time,” Williams said. “I haven’t seen that called. Have you? I don’t remember it being called. Just let us play. We’ll try to keep it safe the best we can, but at the end of the day you still have to make tackles.”

“I get what they’re trying to do as far as to make the game safe. But it’s still the game of football and we know what we signed up for.”

I think the league office knows it is in a lose-lose situation. They know they have to make the game safer in order to keep it alive. Too many parents are losing the willingness to put their kids into football with all the recent research coming out about concussions and brain damage.

The Heads-Up movement has been introduced at lower levels, and this seems to be a way of keeping kids from learning how to do things dangerously from what they see players do in the NFL.

I get players’ frustration. They have done this for so long, but there is never a good time to add a safety rule. It will always be met with criticism, and the last thing they should do is open it up for players to do things more freely. You can say players know what they’ve signed up for, but so often, it seems players don’t remember that reality until it is too late.

This rule is to protect current and future players from dealing with injuries a post-football issues that players before are dealing with.