Count Aaron Rodgers among those worried about the potential effects of the NFL’s new helmet rule.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback has voiced his concerns about the rule – which has created boundless controversy throughout the preseason – on two different podcasts in the last week.
“Everybody’s concerned with it,” Rodgers said on the “Wilde and Tausch” podcast. “I don’t know how you referee it. It’s going to be tough on those guys for sure. 100 percent tough on the players, because it’s a subjective call.”
The NFL implemented the rule this offseason to outlaw players from lowering their helmet to initiate contact, a movement the league feels is a major factor in concussions and neck injuries in the game. While many players and fans believe it’s been over-officiated – and, in many cases, poorly enforced – through the first two weeks of the preseason, the NFL isn’t planning any wholesale changes to the rule.
Rodgers thinks the NFL was right to penalize and de-incentivize players from the egregious, dangerous hits, such as the two concussion-creating collisions suffered by Packers receiver Davante Adams last season, but he also believes the new rule is an overreaction to those outcomes, and he’s worried about how the rule will affect games and the officials.
“I think the worry is two-fold,” Rodgers said on “The Pat McAfee Show” on Thursday. “First, that it’s going to greatly impact a game on the highest level, whether it’s a game to get into the playoffs, or to win a division, or in the divisional playoffs or wild-card round or NFC championship or even the Super Bowl, where there’s a sack or a certain play and there’s going to be a 15-yard penalty that can totally swing the entire game. Guys are worried about that.”
“And the other worry is the officials,” Rodgers continued. “The officials are the ones that have to make these calls. … When you make a call truly subjective. I’m taking out the objective ones, but the other ones are mostly subjective. That’s tough.”
Rodgers knows how hard it’s becoming to play defense legally in the NFL, even if he understands the league’s goal of attempting to make the game safer overall. Taking dangerous hits out of the game is a good thing for the professionals and important in ensuring kids continue to play the game at an entry level.
But he also thinks the new rule will change the game fundamentally if it remains in its current state.
“We have to remember that this is people at the highest level doing it at high rates of speed,” Rodgers said. “It’s going to be interesting. I don’t know what the resolution is going to be, but it’s definitely going to change the game if it stays the way it is.”
New rules tend to be over-called during preseason games as a way for both the league and the officials to get a better feel for identifying the fouls, understanding the impacts and correcting players in games that don’t technically matter. Rodgers can see the rule resetting its course once the regular season begins, but he’s also keenly aware of how tough it will be on everyone involved, especially in the most common of football situations.
“A guy’s in the open field, lowering his pads, and the defender has to get lower,” Rodgers said. “How do they get lower without having a horizontal body posture? It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be really tough to ref, tough to figure out.”