Eagles Players Frustrated with NFL Referees' Presentation of New Helmet Rule

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04:  Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles tackles Brandin Cooks #14 of the New England Patriots during the second quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The NFL announced an amended helmet-hit rule in March to help increase player safety, but the league may have inadvertently created a new headache for its players.

Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham explained how he and some of his teammates felt underwhelmed by a presentation about the rule by NFL referees.

"We were trying to ask questions to get a better understanding, and yet they couldn't really give us an answer," Bradham said, per ESPN.com's Tim McManus. "They couldn't give us what we were looking for."

Under the new rule, players can receive a 15-yard penalty and even be ejected when they lead with their helmets when making contact. It's somewhat similar to targeting in college football:

There's an obvious gray area that could lead to problems with the implementation of the rule. Whether to issue the 15-yard penalty at all and then whether to eject the player are left to the interpretation of the referees.

According to McManus, Eagles players showed the NFL referees a replay of a tackle by safety Malcolm Jenkins on former New England Patriots wideout Brandin Cooks. Jenkins leveled Cooks with a helmet-to-helmet hit in the second quarter of Super Bowl LII.

McManus reported there wasn't a consensus among the referees about how to rule on the play. Jenkins then told reporters the new rule won't change his thought process on the field:

The NFL regular season kicks off Sept. 6 when the Eagles host the Atlanta Falcons.

That leaves the league with some time to try to bring some clarity to the tackling rule. Should it fail to address the concerns raised by the Eagles players, the NFL risks creating a situation in which few fans can determine what is and isn't a flag-worthy offense, not unlike trying to sort through the old catch rules.

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