Unbeknownst to me, during the offseason, the Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP) approved a few rule changes proposed by the NCAA’s Football Rules Committee. According to NCAA.com, teams will kick off at the 35-yard line instead of the 30. Also, to encourage more touchbacks, the ball will be placed at the 25-yard line instead of the 20-yard line following kickoffs.
Also implemented was the rule to make players sit out the following play if they lose their helmets during the previous play. Additionally, if a player accidentally loses his helmet during a play, he is no longer permitted to participate in the play.
This rule was approved to protect players from injuries, but defenses have a reason to salivate over such a rule.
Now, defenses can go to tackle a player, “inadvertently” knock his helmet off and knock the player out of the game for the next play, posing a problem for the offense because their best player isn’t allowed on the field. This rule will continue to become more advantageous to defenses as the season progresses.
While watching multiple football games yesterday, I witnessed many helmets flying off and players exiting the field for a play. Various defensive players closed in to make tackles, while some seemed to target the helmet when taking the opposing player to the ground.
Many players who had their helmets knocked off seemed unfazed, as if they weren’t injured at all and could have played the next down.
Just imagine that a team is on the goal line on third down. The team doesn’t make it into the end zone. The quarterback, running back or wide receiver’s helmet is dislodged. The player is forced to leave the game for the following play, and now your primary target or game changer is sitting on the sideline for the most important play on fourth down.
A scenario such as this one is when this new ruling will become controversial.
If a player’s helmet is dismantled, and it is deemed that it was deliberately done by the defensive player, then the offensive player can stay in the game, and vice versa.
The distinction on whether the act was intentional or unintended will be the question and what the referees will have to decide.
This rule could use a revision to prevent such dilemmas.
Teams may want to invest in adding an extra strap on players’ helmets just as a precaution.