NFL Notebook: Helmet Rule Remains Unchanged After League Review

By Reuters
August 23, 2018Sportsshare
NFL Notebook: Helmet Rule Remains Unchanged After League Review
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) is hit in the helmet by the Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas (29). (Erich Schlegel/USA Today Sports)

Despite a review by the NFL competition committee, there will be no changes to the controversial helmet rule established in the spring, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent announced Wednesday.

The committee held a conference call in which feedback from players, coaches and game officials was reviewed.

“The committee resolved that there will be no changes to the rule as approved by clubs this spring,” Vincent said, “which includes no additional use of instant replay. The committee also determined that inadvertent or incidental contact with the helmet and/or facemask is not a foul.”

The rule—which penalizes a player for lowering the helmet with intent to initiate contact—has been a source of confusion and frustration for players, coaches and fans alike through the first half of the preseason. Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer even opined Aug. 20 that the rule might end up costing people jobs.

Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick announced he has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare auto-immune disorder, and is uncertain when he will be able to play.

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) throws a pass as Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) defends in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. (Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today Sports)

Frederick posted a statement on Twitter, saying the diagnosis came after “a very extensive examination and discovery process over the past few weeks.”

Frederick has seen multiple neck-and-spine specialists after sustaining a series of stingers in his shoulder and neck area during training camp. He saw a specialist in Los Angeles last week after having “several (stingers) over the course of a couple days,” and was scheduled to see more specialists this week in Dallas after experiencing another stinger on Aug. 20.

The New York Jets are one of more than a dozen teams to reach out to the Oakland Raiders to express interest in trading for defensive end Khalil Mack, the New York Daily News reported.

The report adds that Oakland has not given any interested teams permission to discuss a new contract with Mack, who has held out of all of training camp while seeking a new deal. That permission would presumably be the final step to any deal, assuming the Raiders decided to trade Mack and could agree with a team on compensation.

ESPN reported last week there is “no end in sight” to Mack’s holdout, which included the entirety of the offseason program as well. Entering the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year will make $13.85 million. He is likely seeking to become the highest-paid defender in NFL history at more than $20 million annually.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb is being shopped in trade discussions around the league, former NFL personnel man Michael Lombardi said on The Ringer’s GM Street podcast.

Entering the final year of his contract—in which he is due $8.6 million in salary—Cobb was rumored as a possible release candidate this spring, but the older Jordy Nelson was let go instead. Cobb, who turned 28 on Aug. 22, will count $12.7 million against the Packers’ cap this season, a figure that would be reduced to $3.65 million in dead money if he is traded (or, for some reason, released).

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Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) signs autographs after training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field. (Adam Wesley/USA Today Network-Wisconsin via USA Today Network)

Many have speculated the Packers could be interested acquiring Mack from Oakland, but no substantive reports have linked the two teams.

One move the Raiders reportedly have made is signing free agent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, according to multiple media outlets. Rodgers-Cromartie told ESPN earlier in the day that he visited the team and his workout “went great.”

The 32-year-old had visited the Washington Redskins in March and the Seattle Seahawks earlier this month since being released in the spring by the New York Giants, with whom he spent the last four years.

Five days after leaving a preseason game with what many feared was a broken collarbone, Buffalo Bills quarterback AJ McCarron has returned to limited practice work.

Coach Sean McDermott told reporters the plan is to ease McCarron — whose collarbone was found to be intact after further testing — back into practice and see how he feels with increased activity. McDermott said McCarron has “general soreness right now” in his right (throwing) shoulder, but the team doesn’t feel the need to sign another quarterback at the moment.

McCarron appears unlikely to play on Aug. 26 in the third preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals, which rookie first-rounder Josh Allen will start, with Nathan Peterman working in afterward. Meanwhile, running back LeSean McCoy is day-to-day while dealing with a groin/hip injury, the coach said.

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Buffalo Bills quarterback AJ McCarron (10) warms up before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley was back at practice for the first time in more than a week, albeit on a limited basis. Barkley had missed the last eight practices after straining a hamstring.

“Felt good, felt good to actually get to participate in (individual drills) a little bit and practice drills,” Barkley told reporters afterward. “Feeling strong and continuing to strengthen it.”

Head coach Pat Shurmur has been cautious about rushing Barkley back and is focused on having him ready for Week 1. Per Shurmur, Barkley was limited to individual drills in practice Wednesday.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is wearing a new helmet for the first time in more than a decade this season, but the change has been mostly seamless so far.

“I really like it,” Brady told reporters of his new helmet. “It’s been a good transition, a smooth transition, which is all I can ask for.”

Brady is one of a few prominent quarterbacks who had previously used helmets that are now on the NFL’s disallowed list.

As quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers work toward an extension, the quarterback insists he’s “not trying to screw” the team when it comes to staying competitive. In a wide-ranging interview with ESPN Radio’s “Wilde and Tausch” airing in multiple segments this week, Rodgers termed his situation with the Packers as a “partnership.”

Rodgers, 34, still has two years remaining on his contract. His $22 million annual average, which was the highest in NFL history when the deal was signed in April 2013, now ranks 10th among NFL quarterbacks. Rodgers can make a little more than $20.5 million this season and $21.1 million in 2019 before his contract expires, including roster and workout bonuses.

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New York Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley during training camp. (Danielle Parhizkaran/ via USA Today Network)

Safety George Iloka signed with the Vikings less than a week after his release by the Bengals. “I’m in a good situation here. I’m where I’m wanted and where I want to be,” Iloka said.

Terms of the deal weren’t immediately available, but Iloka said he signed a one-year deal. ESPN later reported it is a veteran’s minimum deal for $790,000, plus a $90,000 signing bonus.

Iloka, 28, was released in a cost-cutting move as the Bengals trimmed $5.3 million in salary and roster bonuses for 2018. The Vikings are familiar with Iloka, who played for Zimmer for two seasons when Zimmer was the Bengals’ defensive coordinator.

Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has returned to the team after serving a five-week suspension following his July arrest for driving under the influence.

Keim, who has been with organization for 20 years and served as GM since 2013, said it was “torture” being away from the team and called his experience “extremely humbling and embarrassing beyond belief.”

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman says he will play in the team’s third preseason game Aug. 25 against the Indianapolis Colts, his first game action since tearing his Achilles last November.

Also dealing with a strained hamstring sustained in camp, Sherman said, “Those things are feeling great. … I could have played last week.”

More Comings and Goings

The Patriots announced the release of wide receiver Kenny Britt, the third prominent subtraction from the position group this month alone. The Patriots released Jordan Matthews with an injury settlement on Aug. 1, five days after injury-plagued wideout Malcolm Mitchell was waived. … The Kansas City Chiefs released veteran running back Charcandrick West, leaving Kareem Hunt and Spencer Ware to share the bulk of the workload out of the backfield to begin the season. West, 27, had only 72 yards on 18 carries last season, but was a key member of the special teams. …

Kicker Cairo Santos will be released by the Jets because injuries have made it impossible for the team to get a good look at him in camp, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported. The Jets claimed Jason Myers off of waivers from the Seahawks on Aug. 21 and were scheduled to audition recently released Vikings kicker Kai Forbath. … Defensive end Charles Johnson is retiring from the NFL after 11 seasons. A third-round pick in 2007, Johnson spent his entire career with the Carolina Panthers before being released in February. …

The 49ers announced the retirement of defensive tackle Cedric Thornton and the signing of defensive tackle Chris Jones to take the vacant roster spot. Thornton, 30, joined the team on a one-year, $915,000 deal this offseason after spending 2017 with the Buffalo Bills.

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