Most of us would agree that it’s important to put player safety first to limit concussions and neck/back injuries in football. That being said, the NFL helmet rule that’s being implemented this preseason and coming regular season continues to be something that is baffling, to say the least.
On Friday night, Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal attacked a screen play and made what surely looked like a clean wrap-up tackle, leading with his shoulder pad, rather than his helmet.
Playing basic football will be tough next season, flag on this play.pic.twitter.com/E587nInrTB
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 17, 2018
Yet the flag came out. Neal was penalized 15 yards for lowering his helmet.
#Falcons SS Keanu Neal called for lowering his helmet on the Kareem Hunt stop.
— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) August 17, 2018
Neal was upset, and so were his teammates. And honestly, it’s not hard to understand why, as the receiver on this play absolutely went low, facilitating Neal to also go low.
Reactions on social media were generally anywhere from people being confused to upset.
— Christopher Thompson (@c_thom) August 17, 2018
Really tough helmet call on Keanu Neal. This rule, man
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) August 17, 2018
This helmet ruled is well… it's something alright. Keanu Neal lowered the shoulder on replay. Not his head. But I'm not an official "official"
— Wendy Adams (@wendyradio) August 17, 2018
— ATL Sports Scoop (@atlsportsscoop) August 17, 2018
The NFL really has its work cut out to get this rule ironed out before the regular season opens up in a few weeks. Because if things continue to unfold in this manner when games count, then we’ll absolutely see some games that will be decided on a penalty like the one called on Neal above.