Get ready for New Englanders to quickly change their minds about the NFL’s new helmet rule, because Patriots head coach Bill Belichick doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.
Belichick was asked about the new helmet rule on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” program Monday afternoon and said he understands it and coaches tackling the way it is written.
“From my standpoint, there’s really — it’s not a change for us, not a change for our coaching staff,” Belichick said. “We’ve never taught tackling with the crown of our helmet, putting our head down, leaning our body forward in that type of position. I don’t think fundamentally that’s a good position to be in. It’s not effective. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong besides getting hurt, and that’s an important one.
“We’ve always tackled and blocked with our head up, and our eyes open, and our head back, so we can see what we hit. That’s the only way I’ve ever coached it. If we do it that way, then we’ll be within the rules. That’s what we’ve tried to teach.
“There’s a lot of bang-bang plays where you have to react quickly and try to make a tackle or make a block or get an extra yard, and sometimes instinctively a player will put his head down. I think there’s certainly more of an awareness of that because of the way that it’s called. Fundamentally, we’ve never taught that in any technique, so that’s not a big change for us.”
Many analysts and fans have claimed not to understand how the rule is being called. Belichick’s not joining the herd. He gets it.
“I think we understand it. I think I understand it,” Belichick said. “Our team looked at probably 25 plays last night, and I think all of us could see those plays, why they were called, and the ones that weren’t called, why they weren’t called. The officials have a tough job to make that judgment, but I think the rule is fairly clear cut: If you lead with your head, and make contact with the opponent, then that’s a foul.”
Belichick also doesn’t believe defenders are being singled out with flags for leading with their helmets. Patriots safety Jordan Richards was flagged for leading with this head Thursday in the Patriots’ second preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“There’s examples where everybody has been called — blockers, guys defeating blocks, more tacklers, but also some runners,” Belichick said. “I think these are problems and questions that really should go to the NFL officiating department. It doesn’t matter whether I like the rule or don’t like the rule or what I think the rule should or should be or should or shouldn’t be called. That’s not my job. My job is to understand the rule and to coach it.
“We’re not coaching anything any differently, and I’m not coaching anything any differently than I’ve ever coached it since I’ve been in the National Football League. We’ve never coached head down, top of the head, don’t see what the contact is and put yourself in a position where you could have a serious injury and not do your job. So, how it’s officiated and so forth, that’s something the officials and Al Riveron and the NFL office can talk to you about. I really — that’s not my job. I can’t answer how hard it is or isn’t to officiate. I just know what we’re coaching, and that’s what we coach.”
Among the 25 plays the Patriots viewed, some came from the NFL offices.
“They send us what they send us,” Belichick said. “Plays they’ve called or plays they’ve missed, whatever the case may be and examples of it. We have our own plays. Regardless of what they call or don’t call, that’s a technique that we don’t teach and we don’t subscribe to, so whether they call it or don’t call it, we don’t want to do it because I don’t think it works very well. We’re not teaching that. If a player does that, we want to instruct him how to do it properly, not only for his safety but also so he can fundamentally make the block or make the tackle or take on a block or whatever it is we’re talking about, as opposed to some other techniques.”
Belichick made his point abundantly clear Monday: The new NFL helmet rule doesn’t affect the Patriots because that’s not how they tackle.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images