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|Safety rules new college rules|
So I hope LSU managers fit Tyrann Mathieu (and whatever nickname he is using this week) with a snug helmet.
Because I guarantee you, if Mathieu's helmet comes off, he is not stopping.
Steve Shaw, the coordinator of SEC Officials, talked about a new rule at SEC Media Days in Hoover last week in which if a player's helmet comes off, he can not continue to participate in the play. If a player continues participating in the play beyond their continuing action, that's a 15‑yard foul.
I just cannot see Mathieu stopping just because his helmet came off. And my guess is there are probably a few other select players. I'm not saying it's a bad rule, as a matter of fact, it's a great rule. But you are asking a few guys who will sacrifice anything to make a tackle to change their whole way of thinking.
Also, if a player's helmet comes off and it is not the result of a foul, not a penalty involved in that, then they have to leave the game for one play. There are no exceptions. And you can't buy a player back in with a time out.
Shaw said playing time is the most precious commodity to players, so we think that will give them incentive to get these buckled up and fitted properly.
"So the incentive there is for player safety, if your helmet comes off, we're done," Shaw said. "We've seen the play, the lineman is rushing, his helmet comes off, the quarterback scrambles out, he goes chasing, now that's a foul. If your helmet comes off, another incentive to fit it properly, you're done for that play."
Vidalia native Nathan Ledford was an LSU manager from 2004-07. He knows a thing or two about helmets having tightened, repaired and outfitted many during his time. He credits former LSU equipment manager Jeff Boss, who died in 2003 of brain cancer. The LSU locker room is named after Boss.
"There is a lot you can do to prevent helmets from coming off," Ledford said. "It starts with the fitting process. In the four years I was at LSU, I can't remember a problem with helmets coming off. First, you have to understand that certain style helmets lend themselves to certain head types. The Adams helmet, for example, is meant for someone with a narrow, long head. If a football player immediately didn't fit the mold, you've got to lead them in a new direction.
"When we would fit a football player for a helmet it all started with a helmet without a facemask," Ledford said. "A good fit means the head fitting tightly in the helmet without making many adjustments. This means no air to start with. You shouldn't have to add too much air to make the helmet fit. If the earholes are lined up, you would put your fingers in the earholes and gently pull the helmet forward. The helmet should push the area above the brow ridge down, but it should stop. The helmet can even be a little uncomfortably tight at first. This is good because you don't want any slipping. The player will eventually break it in."
Then comes the chinstrap.
"You want to make sure the cup is centered on the chin and that there is no slack in the strap," Ledford said. "Centering the cup is important because then you may have extra slack on either side or have the cup leaning to one side. This could cause the chin strap to come off easier. We had policies that restricted what kind of strap a player would get. Most players have a 'low-low' strap. This is where both buttons on either side are close together in the jaw area and below the face mask. If there was a medical reason for what we call a 'high-low' strap, we would actually have a chin strap with three straps on either side. Basically you have one button around the chin....one level with the eye area and one near the forehead area. Doing this ads stability."
Ledford said if a player changed his hairstyle, he would have to have a new helmet.
"If a player got a buzz after having long hair, then it would be time for fitting again," he said. "Sometimes I think there are helmet problems because of the athlete requesting something they think 'looks cool.' I see NFL players do things all the time that we would never let players do. The NFL is different because a lot of the liability goes back to the player."
Ledford said he's watched and seen where other teams, especially in the NFL, don't adhere to LSU's standards.
"Brett Favre wore a strap with just one button," he said. "We would never install something like this or a 'high-low' strap with a button on the jaw and one on the forehead. There is one helmet where a 'high-low' is completely safe and that is the Riddell Revolution. This is the newer style you see players like Peyton Manning wear. It looks bulky and the helmet extends over the player's jaw. This helmet has only 'high-low' chinstraps and is designed this way. The Revolution, due to its bulkiness, is a bit restrictive, but it provides the most protection. I think one day this will be the standard in helmets."
After the chinstrap comes the facemask.
"Again, we had certain standards founded by Jeff Boss who I believe was the standard when it comes to football equipment," Ledford said. "We went by the book he wrote on it. Football safety all starts in the beginning and it can be tedious. There's a fine line between comfort and safety when you have grown men running as fast as they can at one another."
The helmet is not the only big change for 2012.
The kickoff line has moved from the 30 yard line up to the 35.
"The rules maker's intent there, kickers, more touchbacks, less collisions, less injuries," Shaw said. "As an added incentive if as a receiver you catch the ball and you take a knee, you take a touchback, now we're not taking the ball to the 20, we're going to take it to the 25. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out because it's easier to get a touchback now, five more yards to start from."
Florida head coach Will Muschamp said in Hoover that he and special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin have talked a lot about the new kickoff rule.
"We have a guy that can kick it out of the end zone, but you're going to get the ball at the 25 yard line now," Muschamp said, referring to Gator kicker Caleb Sturgis. "We have talked about some sky kick situations as far as trying to pin them down. We do run well, that's why we're good on special teams. We talked about trying directional kick the ball with height and see if we can't pin 'em back in even further. That's something we worked through in spring, we talked about a lot, repped a little bit. We've had our kickers working on that. We will do that again in fall camp."
There is also a new rule for onside kicks.
"In the past, the primary kick we've seen is where the kicker drives the ball straight in the ground, it goes high up in the air, the intent is it goes high in the air, 10 yards, a free ball, now we have some pretty significant collisions," Shaw said. "Now, if a kicker drives the ball straight into the ground, one hop, the receiving team is afforded protection to catch that hop just like it was an airborne kick. The example would be if he drives it into the ground, big hop, I'm in position to catch it, if it was beyond 10 yards before, the kicking team could make contact with me. Now they will not be allowed to make contact. That will be kick‑catch interference. That will take that one hop kick out of the game as far as onside kicks."
Shaw said the rules committee also replaced the halo rule on punt returns.
"The kicking team players, they're trying to time this thing just right almost in a manner to blow up that receiver," Shaw said. "We're not going back to the halo. I'm calling it a modified halo. Basically that receiver has shoulder width and one yard in front of him, that is a protected space, and no kicking team player can get within that one‑yard space, shoulder width, until I've touched the ball.
The intent from the rules committee, the players will now break down before they go in and make contact. It will be safer for a very defenseless player, which is a punt returner. That will be a pretty significant change and we hope will eliminate some of these big hits right on that punt receiver."
Shaw mentioned a change in punter protection, as well.
"What we used to have is the punter would have a personal protector," Shaw said. "Now teams have gone to what they call the shield. Everybody has a different name for it. They'll have three guys as a shield protecting the punter. Now it's a foul if you're rushing in to try to block the kick to leap over these guys and block the kick. You can go through them, around them, dive around them, but you cannot jump over them. We were receiving a lot of players on this shield try to jump over, go into the ground head first. Another player safety issue we will have. It's a pretty significant foul because it's a 15‑yard penalty from the previous spot. It will give the offense 15 yards, automatic first down. So a big incentive not to leap over that internal protector or the shield."
Shaw said there is also a significant change in blocking below the waist,.
"Now an offensive player can't peel back toward his own goal line and block below the waist," "he said. A player that's restricted can't come into the tackle box and block below the waist at all. This one is one very technical in nature, but is again around player safety. That was the intent of all these rule changes.
And finally, and one of the most interesting comments from Shaw, dealt with helmet hits.
"The first is targeting and dangerous contact fouls, not helmet to helmet," he said. "You will never hear one of our referees saying helmet to helmet. Helmets hit every play. This is targeting a defenseless player above the shoulders or using the crown of your helmet to make contact. That's a foul. We will continue to focus on that. The second there is unsportsmanlike conduct. We're not going to let up there. We're going to use good judgment. We're not going to be overall technical. Spontaneous celebrations, especially with teammates are okay. But anything that is directed toward an opponent or demeaning to the game, we're going to stay there. We had one foul that turned back a touchdown all season (Brad Wing). But I think the rule did what it was intended to do. I've never seen a year with as little celebration type things as players went into the end zone. So I think the rule worked."
So Tyrann, keep the helmet on and Brad keep your arms around the football and not pointing.
Players and coaches will have to adjust to the new rules. But the bottom line is the safety of the players. And I don't think anybody can argue with that.
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