July 31, 2018
On Sunday, a few referees stopped by the Philadelphia Eagles' complex to provide a video demonstration on the NFL's rule changes for the upcoming 2018 season. The media was then welcomed to watch it as well.
The tutorial did little to clear up the players' confusion about a controversial rule change in which players are no longer allowed to lower their heads to make tackles. Here is what the players and media saw on Sunday, which I shot with my phone:
The players' confusion on the new rule is valid. For example, the hit demonstrated at the 2:18 mark happens countless times in any NFL game. Are referees going to throw 30 personal foul flags per game on that kind of tackle? Are some referees going to officiate it differently than others?
One notable tackle from the 2017 season that was not addressed in the video was Malcolm Jenkins' hit on Brandin Cooks that knocked Cooks out of the Super Bowl. During separate Q&A sessions with the referees, both Eagles players and media asked if that hit was legal, and in both cases, the referees were split on how that play should be interpreted.
"We pulled (the Jenkins hit) up on our own," said Nigel Bradham. "We asked them what they thought about it. One ref said illegal. One said legal."
Eagles players left the tutorial session feeling as though the referees themselves didn't completely understand, or at a minimum, couldn't adequately explain the new rule.
"We were just trying to ask questions to try to get a better understanding, and yet they couldn't really give us an answer," Bradham said.
Without clarity, players are understandably going to continue to tackle the way they always have.
"I'm going to make that play 10 times out of 10," said Malcolm Jenkins of his hit on Cooks. "If it's a flag, it's a flag."
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