Number of plays run from scrimmage in Week 1 NFL preseason games: 2,092.
Number of helmet-crown rule infractions: Zero.
Not a one, according to a league spokesman. Throw in the Hall of Fame Game between Dallas and Miami, in which no personal-foul penalties were called, and the numbers rise to 17 games and 2,225 plays.
In March the league passed the controversial new “crown of the helmet” rule: a 15-yard penalty for any player — on offence or defence — who initiates “forcible contact” against another player (i.e., smash into him) using the top or crown of his helmet, when both players are clearly outside the tackle box.
It is the first rule in the history of American football limiting a ball carrier’s actions, outside of egregious penalties such as punching or facemask-yanking. It is not reviewable.
In a March teleconference call, NFL vice-president of officiating Dean Blandino told reporters that the league pored over all Week 16 games last season and identified five helmet-crown transgressions in the 16 games. That’s with the advantage of slow-motion replay.
Have players adjusted their actions to comply with the new rule? Perhaps.
The more likely issue, in our view, is real-time identification. It’s difficult for officials or anyone to determine if a player did or did not use the crown of his helmet on most bang-bang hits. A helmet is spherical, not cubic. There are no edges or lines demarking the crown from the front of the helmet (the “hairline”).
As we predicted in March, the foul probably will be called infrequently, with only obvious, egregious infractions flagged. There hasn’t been one so far this preseason, at least that any game official has noticed in live play.