Why Are Offensive Players Never Flagged for ‘Lowering the Crown of Their Helmet’?

Weeks ago vs the Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings Safety Harrison Smith was called for the NFL’s version of what college football deems, ‘Targeting’, and he was ejected. I stuck up for the referees and the NFL.

Per the rule, Smith’s hit warranted an ejection. He lowered the crown of his helmet, took his eyes off of his target, and made helmet-to-helmet contact on the receiver. It was a textbook ‘Targeting’ call if you’ve watched NCAA football over the last few seasons.

But what happened this last Sunday vs the Detroit Lions, when Harrison Smith was called (but not ejected) for helmet-to-helmet contact on Marvin Jones Jr, was complete bullshit. Jones catches the ball and lowers HIS helmet to initiate contact, way before Smith lowers his own. Then… bang.

Here is how the rule is written, and below that, is the call in question.

Obviously, Marvin Jones’ foul didn’t constitute an objection. His transgressions missed points 2 and 3 on the ejection checklist above. The 15-yard penalty he committed, however, couldn’t be more textbook.

Jones clearly catches the ball, turns to find Harrison Smith and lowers the crown of his helmet directly toward the Vikings safety. Smith sees that and reacts by lowering his own helmet to protect himself.

Guilty is guilty, no matter side of the ball.

There’s nothing in these helmet-to-helmet rules that distinguishes the difference between an offensive or defensive player. In fact, the rules were written to be called on both sides of the football. But they aren’t.

We see defensive players from all positions called for helmet-to-helmet and lowering-the-helmet personal foul penalties every week, in both college and professional football. It is rarely, if ever, called on offensive players.

I’d argue that players on the offensive side of the ball, commit this penalty way more often than those on the defensive side. Running backs lower their helmets to initiate contact on half of their touches, it seems like. When is the last time you’ve seen a running back called for lowering his helmet to initiate contact with a defender?

Never. That’s the answer.

Either we care about player safety or we don’t…

We’ve clearly established that lowering the crown of your helmet and bulldozing someone is bad for the brains of everyone involved. No matter who does it, it puts both the offender and defender at great risk.

So I’m struggling to understand why it is only called one way.. and there’s really no good reason I’ve been able to think of. So, if you know something I don’t… please let me know so I can add it to this blog.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan