Todd Gurley’s huge Rams contract extension resets the elite RB market

How Todd Gurley’s extension impacts Aaron Donald, Le’Veon Bell, and the NFL’s running back market

The Rams were smart to pay Todd Gurley sooner rather than later.

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Le’Veon Bell spent more than two years pushing for a contract averaging $15 million per year, but the running back who finally got that number was the Los Angeles RamsTodd Gurley.

The Rams announced a new deal with Gurley on Tuesday, and according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a four-year extension to his contract worth $60 million with $45 million in guarantees.

Gurley, 23, was named the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year after finishing the season as the league leader in yards from scrimmage (2,093) as well as rushing and receiving touchdowns (19).

His contract is the largest ever for a running back in terms of both guarantees and annual averages. But what do the ramifications of the contract mean for the Rams, Aaron Donald, Le’Veon Bell, and other running backs in the NFL?

The Rams were wise to pay Gurley sooner rather than later

When Le’Veon Bell didn’t get a new contract from the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to the July 16 deadline for players under the franchise tag, it meant the three-time Pro Bowler’s time in Pittsburgh is almost definitely coming to an end.

Barring a surprising reversal of fortune, Bell is going to reach free agency in March. The open market will likely mean he sees the big money that the Steelers were never fully willing to part with.

That essentially gave the Rams eight months to get a contract done with Gurley before Bell signed a huge deal that set a new standard for top running backs. With David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals also hoping for a new contract soon, the Rams had to race to get a deal done as soon as possible.

A four-year, $60 million may not sound cheap, but when added to the two years and $11.95 million that Gurley had left on his rookie contract, it amounts to a six-year, $71.95 million deal for the running back. The $11.99 million per year salary due to Gurley is a good amount for the Rams considering where Bell will likely push the market.

Bell has had his sights set on a contract that averages $15 million per year, and that number looks more realistic than ever.

Gurley’s new deal easily eclipses the top long-term running back contract in the NFL, which previously belonged to Devonta Freeman. The Atlanta Falcons running back signed a five-year, $41.25 million deal last year that averages out to $8.25 million per season.

Gurley reset the market, but the Rams were smart to get ahead of the wave of contracts headed to Bell, Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Howard, and other young running backs.

Le’Veon Bell’s value is mostly unchanged by Gurley’s deal

The contract extension for Gurley isn’t the greatest news for Bell, but it isn’t bad news either. With the full value of Gurley’s deal amounting to essentially $12 million per year over the next six years, Bell is still going to be hunting for more when he presumably becomes a free agent next offseason.

Both players are bona fide No. 1 running backs who average more than 1,000 rushing yards per season, and are significant contributors in the passing game. Gurley caught 64 passes for 788 yards and six touchdowns in 2017, while Bell had 85 receptions for 655 yards and two touchdowns.

Bell can use the framework of the four-year, $60 million extension and his comparable stats to aim for a contract that totals about $15 million per year. He’ll also be helped by the competition of the free agency market which pushes up prices.

So the news Tuesday was celebrated by Bell:

lol and ppl thought I was trippin?…

— Le’Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) July 24, 2018

✊ ✊ ✊ yeah todd https://t.co/To0v91y9T7

— Le’Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) July 24, 2018

But the real winners is the entire running back market, which is probably going to see a wave of money headed its way now that Gurley pushed the numbers much higher.

Congrats my dude @TG3II …..RBs makin moves https://t.co/ITXvGRdWn3

— David Johnson (@DavidJohnson31) July 24, 2018

https://t.co/cbpsR7xX4h

— Jay Ajayi (@JayTrain) July 24, 2018

ARRRBEEEEEESSSSSSS‼️ https://t.co/fFs3EXWJBN

— Mark Ingram II (@MarkIngram22) July 24, 2018

It’s not the worst time to be a starting NFL running back right now.

Don’t worry, Aaron Donald. There’s still money for you.

The Rams are giving out money left and right this offseason, but the notable exception has been Aaron Donald, the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year.

Donald, 27, is set to play the 2018 season on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. He’s been asking for a new deal for more than a year and will likely hold out from training camp again until he gets one.

So it raises eyebrows to see another Rams player get a premium contract while Donald continues to wait.

But the Rams — for all their big spending — still have plenty of money to dish out. It’s a luxury that comes with having a quarterback on a rookie contract, and even after the Gurley deal, the Rams are still among the league leaders in cap space for 2019 and beyond.

As long as the Rams are able to structure a deal that doesn’t increase Donald’s salary cap hit in 2018 much — something that isn’t difficult to do — it still won’t be difficult for the team to make sure he’s in the long-term plans.

“We’re simultaneously working to make Aaron a Ram for a long time… we’re going to continue working to get something done with Aaron” – Snead

— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) July 24, 2018

“This (Gurley extension) doesn’t have any effect on the Aaron things” – McVay

— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) July 24, 2018

Yes, the Rams spent big money to add players like Ndamukong Suh and Aqib Talib to the roster, but the nucleus of the team for the foreseeable future is its trio of young stars: Donald, Gurley and Jared Goff.

One was secured through the 2023 season today, and Donald probably won’t have to wait long for his turn next.

Malik McDowell is another draft whiff for the Seahawks, who have plenty recently

Malik McDowell is another draft whiff for the Seahawks, who have plenty recently

The Seahawks’ bad draft luck is taking a toll on the team’s roster.

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The Seattle Seahawksparted ways with defensive tackle Malik McDowell on Thursday, just over a year after the team picked him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. McDowell never took a snap or donned a Seahawks uniform before an ATV accident in July 2017 caused injuries that ended his rookie year before it ever began.

The details of his injury were never revealed, but over a year later, the Seahawks still weren’t ready to medically clear the lineman. If McDowell is healthy enough to play again, he’ll have to hunt for another NFL team willing to give him a chance.

For the Seahawks it’s another bad pick in a string of poor draft choices in recent offseasons. McDowell was the first pick Seattle made in 2017, putting him in an underwhelming group.

Seahawks first draft pick last six years: Malik McDowell, Germain Ifedi, Frank Clark, Paul Richardson, Christine Michael, Bruce Irvin, James Carpenter

— Danny Kelly (@DannyBKelly) April 16, 2018

In that group:

  • Three left as free agents (Carpenter, Irvin and Richardson)
  • One was traded (Michael)
  • One was released (McDowell)
  • Two remain on the roster (Ifedi and Clark)

Part of the problem for the Seahawks has been draft position. Of those six selections, only three were in the first round and Irvin was the only one picked in the top 20.

But the Seahawks’ struggle to find a premium player early in the NFL Draft is partially to blame for the team’s recent decline. The 2017 season was Seattle’s first since 2011 that didn’t reach 10 wins or end with a trip to the playoffs.

The 2018 offseason was particularly rocky for Seattle. The defense lost Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett,Sheldon Richardson, and Kam Chancellor, and the Seahawks are in the middle of a contentious contract dispute with Earl Thomas. Struggling to find young replacements for those cogs is a problem.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame the Seahawks for McDowell not living up to his draft hype in Seattle. But the team’s bad draft luck is taking its toll on the roster.

A quick guide to Dez Bryant’s beef with the Cowboys

A quick guide to Dez Bryant’s beef with the Cowboys

Here’s the latest on what Bryant and his former team have said about each other.

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Dez Bryant has been a free agent since the Dallas Cowboys released him in April. Bryant has mostly stayed out of the headlines since, other than when he reportedly declined a multi-year offer from the Baltimore Ravens. That changed this week as training camp started up around the NFL.

First, the Cleveland Browns publicly acknowledged that they have had discussions about adding the veteran wide receiver — a pairing that might seem like a joke, but actually makes a lot of sense. Then, the interest seemed to ramp up on Friday, when Ian Rapoport and Mary Kay Cabot both reported that the two sides could meet, and potentially get a deal done, soon.

Shortly after, Bryant made waves, but it didn’t have anything to do with a new team. Instead, it had to do with his old team, the one he had played for since it drafted him in the first round in 2010.

Because nothing signals the return of football quite like a Twitter beef, let’s go over what happened:

Dez Bryant took offense to a quote from Cowboys executive Stephen Jones

On Friday, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones was interviewed on Sirius XM NFL Radio about the upcoming season and specifically, about third-year quarterback Dak Prescott. The Sirius XM NFL Radio Twitter account quoted Jones in a since-deleted tweet. Bryant responded in a still-there tweet:

Courtesy of Blogging the Boys:


Blogging the Boys

Bryant’s criticism of the play-calling — not an uncommon complaint among Cowboys fans — is directed at offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

The full Jones quote, with the passing line about Bryant (and former tight end Jason Witten) is here:

Dallas Cowboys EVP/COO, Stephen Jones full quote on the biggest strides he would like to see Dak Prescott make in year three pic.twitter.com/NaXUeV1dXl

— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) July 28, 2018

Jones expanded on his thoughts after Cowboys practice Friday:

“You’ve got great players like Dez and Witten – they want the ball. Everybody sees it, it’s on every team,” he said. “The great players, the great receivers, the guys who catch the ball, want the ball. They let their quarterbacks know that sometimes. I was a quarterback, I understand that. But certainly in no way was it intended to be negative.”

Bryant then called out former teammates Travis Frederick and Sean Lee

Bryant hinted that center Travis Frederick and linebacker Sean Lee were involved in his release from the team.

He’s not clueless.. Jerry was the only one who was clueless.. shit was a planned to get me out ask Travis and my brother snake Lee I mean Sean Lee https://t.co/7BK9cEkW90

— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) July 27, 2018

He had more bite reserved for Lee:

Yea he suppose to been my brother .. we laughed talk about goals and stuff he sat right across from me in the locker room..never thought we had a problem.. I got cut.. he was the first to know.. I find out he was also behind it

Damn!! https://t.co/KgNfu9f2uU

— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) July 27, 2018

This isn’t the first time Bryant has suggested that some of his teammates — he named them “Garrett guys” after the Cowboys head coach — were helping to get him off the team:

“I won’t put no names out, but they know and I want them to know,” Bryant told NFL Network’s Jane Slater after his release. “I’ll shoot them a text message and let them know. Little do they know is, you know, they can wear that ‘C’ all they want to, but in that locker room … they know who they communicate with. Everybody knows where the real love is at. I’m not throwing anybody under the bus, but that’s the difference between me and them.”

Frederick and Lee denied they had anything to do with Bryant’s release

Both veterans said no one consulted them when it came time for the Cowboys to cut ties with Bryant.

Frederick said he had no input in the decision and valued Bryant as a teammate, via DallasCowboys.com:

“I think I’ve definitely been on record saying that I thought Dez was a great teammate. I would’ve argued he was one of the best teammates I’ve had,” Frederick said. “He’s a guy that has taught me a lot. I’m not sure where he’s coming from there.”

Lee, a team captain, admitted the two didn’t always see eye-to-eye:

“First thing: to say that I can get anybody off the team and have any input on the roster is absurd,” Lee said. “Second thing: I love Dez and I want the best for him. To be honest, we did butt heads, because I wanted Dez to be more accountable to this team and his teammates. And to be honest with you, a lot of the team felt that way. I think he needs to look at himself and hold himself accountable.”

But Bryant still loves the Cowboys — and Jerry Jones

Bryant promised he didn’t hold any ill will against the team:

Exactly I don’t why they are concerned about me.. I’m a cowboy fan… my time was up and we should just leave it at that https://t.co/T9XpBFQeP4

— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) July 27, 2018

And he gave a quick shoutout to Prescott, running back Ekeziel Elliott, and wide receivers Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams:

Last thing… I always been @dak@EzekielElliott@Bease11@TerranceWill2 I can’t tag everyone but you know who you are # 1 supporters and still am.. I want them to achieve everything they got they mind on

— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) July 27, 2018

Bryant has always had a special relationship with team owner Jerry Jones, and that didn’t end the day Bryant stopped being a member of the Cowboys.

“Dez and I share a personal and professional relationship that is very strong, and he is one of just a handful of players with whom I have become that close to over the past 30 years,” Jones said following Bryant’s release.

Bryant still holds Jones in high regard:

I love Jerry just not the others https://t.co/RnXCxpA4Xv

— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) July 27, 2018

But Bryant is frustrated with what he sees as the Cowboys blaming him for their struggles in 2017

Jane Slater talked to Bryant and said that contrary to how things looked, Bryant wasn’t angry. He was more just fed up with how he felt the Cowboys were portraying him:

When Dez tweets…What Dez Bryant told me this afternoon following his response to a Stephen Jones interview with Sirius XM pic.twitter.com/b3jU6Yfyuw

— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) July 28, 2018

It’s clear from his tweets that Bryant felt disrespected:

I’m not looking for nothing.. so let’s set the record straight… I just decided not to take no shit from anybody anymore.. go rerun the summer.. I haven’t seen or talked about my future with the Jones all summers last day of free agency I got cut.. no fool here..@ me next time https://t.co/Pvm94jrUkV

— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) July 28, 2018

And he maybe started a new meme in the process — or at the very least, “sir go to work and get off Twitter” should be the next big meme:

Trust me I’ve been let it go.. I suppose to sit and shut up whenever some one is trying to tarnish my name … DEZ BRYANT IS A BUSINESS .. sir go to work and get off Twitter https://t.co/9N9aQGWNws

— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) July 27, 2018

Bryant AND the Cowboys regressed in 2017

The Cowboys took a step back in 2017, particularly offensively. Prescott couldn’t match his Offensive Rookie of the Year season, Elliott was suspended for six games, and the team went from 13-3 and a No. 1 seed to 9-7 and missing the playoffs.

Bryant played all 16 games last season, for the first time since 2014. He also led the team in receptions (69), receiving yards (838), and touchdown catches (six). But none of those stats are spectacular, and they’re far off from his 2012-14 peak, when he was averaging more than 1,300 yards per season and double-digit touchdowns.

There’s also this:

Here’s the drops by TE. The most drops (any position) in 2017 is 12 Dez Bryant. pic.twitter.com/neL1conzPK

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 9, 2018

And it’s true that Dak-Dez pairing wasn’t working for the Cowboys. In April, Thomas George for SB Nation said a Cowboys source told him that they didn’t feel like Bryant was helping Prescott grow as a quarterback:

Sure, Dez Bryant is no longer a Cowboy because his salary cost too much. Because his production had dipped. Because he turns 30 this year and age and injuries were factors. Because his “distractions” and emotional outbursts in games, in the locker room and beyond grew tiresome.

This, however, cannot be denied — the Cowboys concluded that Dez doesn’t work for Dak. So, that doesn’t work for the Cowboys.

Bryant wants to prove he’s not washed — and that the Cowboys were wrong

After he was released, Bryant said he would like to play for another NFC East team so he could get a chance to play against the Cowboys. That seems unlikely to happen, though Slater said that an unnamed team — not the Browns — was interested in Bryant and wasn’t put off because of his tweets.

But by turning down the Ravens’ offer, Bryant made it known he wants a one-year “prove it” deal to show he’s still the player he was back when “Did Dez catch it?” became a saying. One team will sign him, and probably pretty soon.

We’ll just have to wait and see if he’s still got it, and if the Dallas offense can rebound.

I’m just waiting to say I told you https://t.co/mvXRoNmUFY

— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) July 27, 2018

Bryant is obviously not counting on the latter.

Jerry Jones keeps making the NFL’s mishandling of the anthem worse

Jerry Jones keeps making the NFL’s mishandling of the anthem worse

Jerry Jones says it’s problematic that Donald Trump, who he involved, is involved in the anthem conversation.

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In May, NFL owners unilaterally passed a policy that they hoped would end an enduring narrative of protests during the national anthem. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has been one of the most vocally opposed to players kneeling or otherwise protesting, helped lead the effort.

Two months later, that policy is on hold amid public backlash and a grievance filed by the NFLPA. Owners were recently “instructed to stand down” while the NFL and NFLPA discuss a plan moving forward about protests, according to Bengals owner Mike Brown. But Jones couldn’t help himself.

On Wednesday, he spoke to reporters and dumped fuel on the fire:

Jerry Jones says he wouldn’t support a player who elected to stay in the locker room during the anthem. “No, our policy is you stand for the anthem, toe on the line.” #CowboysCamp

— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) July 25, 2018

This really isn’t that surprising. In October 2017, Jones told the media that any players who “disrespect the flag” won’t play for the Cowboys. A few days later, he held a meeting with the team that didn’t seem to go over well with players.

So Jones’ policy that Cowboys players must exit the locker room for the national anthem and “stand for the anthem, toe on the line” isn’t anything new.

It does, however, directly oppose the “compromise” he and the other NFL owners constructed in May when a new national anthem policy was passed. That policy said that players could stay in the locker room to protest, but must stand and “show proper respect for the flag and anthem” if they’re on the field during the national anthem.

By sticking to his solution of trying to end protests by force, Jones is continuing to drive a wedge between players and ownership. He’s also making it clear that — while the NFL and NFLPA are discussing how to move forward — he has no intention of working together with the players.

Jones wants the protests gone on his terms and his terms only.

A couple days later, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins called Jones a bully who is using his position as owner to intimidate any player who dares to think individually or have voice.

Malcolm Jenkins calls Cowboys owner Jerry Jones a bully after Jones recently said he would make his players stand for the anthem. pic.twitter.com/noeHrLIlZZ

— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) July 27, 2018

But Jones didn’t stop there Wednesday.

Jerry says Trump’s involvement in the anthem is “problematic.” “Everybody would like for it to go away.”

— Charean Williams (@NFLCharean) July 25, 2018

Jones, a longtime friend of Donald Trump’s, telling reporters that Trump’s involvement is problematic is ironic considering Jones directly involved him. It was the Cowboys owner who had phone calls with Trump about protests and relayed those messages to other owners during league meetings.

Trump’s comments about NFL players protesting were part of the reason a new policy was passed in May, and it was Jones who brought them to the meeting. If Trump’s involvement is problematic, it was partly Jones’ decision to involve him.

And if the goal of a new anthem policy was to take Trump out of the conversation, it didn’t work. Trump didn’t stop speaking negatively and tweeting criticism of NFL players after the new anthem policy was adopted.

Jones should’ve seen that coming because Trump told him that criticizing players “a very winning, strong issue” for him, according to the Wall Street Journal.

And for good measure Wednesday, Jones said he’s still a supporter and owner of several Papa John’s stores, despite recent news that founder John Schnatter used a racial slur on a conference call. Schnatter, who resigned as chairman and then immediately regretted doing so, would like a “do-over,” according to Jones.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jones is no longer talking about the anthem after the backlash last week and canceled several interviews as a consequence. If Jones had a do-over, it probably would’ve been smart to stick to the NFL’s request for owners to stand down for now, because only made things worse last week.

The NFL’s new helmet could just lead to more controversy

The new NFL helmet rule could lead to even more controversy

The NFL is running the risk of adding an ambiguous and inconsistent rule.

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In March 2018 NFL owners voted to approve Article 8 of the rulebook, better known as the helmet contact rule, an effort aimed at taking head-first collisions out of the game. It’s an attempt to make the game safer, but in the months since passing the new rule, it’s resulted in some controversy and lots and lots of confusion.

Discussions about curbing the worst collisions in the sport led to the drafting of a new rule that quickly went to a vote. At the league meetings in March, when the rule was initially approved, it was laid out in simple terms stipulating that “it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.” The rule that passed also made it so that players could be disqualified.

In May, owners approved the final language clarifying the rule and setting standards for officiating. According to a fact sheet sent out by NFL Operations, the rule is described like this:

It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. Contact does not have to be to an opponent’s head or neck area – lowering the head and initiating contact to an opponent’s torso, hips, and lower body, is also a foul. Violations of the rule will be easier to see and officiate when they occur in open space – as opposed to close line play – but this rule applies anywhere on the field at any time.

A violation of the rule results in a 15-yard penalty. If it’s committed by the defense, it’s an automatic first down. A player can also be ejected if his action meets a certain set of standards, which are:

1. Player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet

2. Unobstructed path to his opponent

3. Contact clearly avoidable and player delivering the blow had other options

It doesn’t exactly mirror college football’s targeting rule, but it does The NFL rulebook take a page out of the college book and be expanded to protect players further from helmet-to-helmet contact.

What’s different about the NFL now with the new rule?

If strictly applied by NFL officials, it could have a sweeping effect on the game. Lowering one’s helmet is an instinct that may be difficult to legislate out of the sport overnight. The result could be many more penalty flags and automatic first downs.

“The crown of the helmet rule got way too narrow,” Falcons president and competition committee chairman Rich McKay said in March. “This has very little requirement to it. This is simply, if you lower your head to initiate contact and you make contact with an opponent, it’s a foul.”

But if every instance of a player lowering their helmet to initiate contact — helmet-to-helmet or otherwise — results in a penalty, it’d be a huge change to the entire sport. Imagine if every quarterback sneak was suddenly an offensive penalty.

Among the examples from McKay of a newly illegal hit was the attempted tackle by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier that ended his season in 2017.

Shazier’s attempted tackle is both an example of tackling technique that the NFL is trying to take out of the game, and a play that would be difficult to correctly officiate if it’s now illegal.

The likely result is it will only be used when an egregious hit occurs. But that brings plenty of ambiguity and judgment into play. Earlier this spring, the NFL got positive reviews for changing a catch rule that was plagued by those same issues. Now the league is running the risk of adding a rule that’s just as controversial and inconsistent.

Is the new rule reviewable?

It is not, unless it results in a player being ejected. At the same May meeting where the league laid our clarifications for the new helmet rule, owners approved a rule change that added ejections to the list of reviewable decisions.

Just in case you need a refresher, the NFL’s list of plays subject to review are:

(a) a score for either team;

(b) an interception;

(c) a fumble or backward pass that is recovered by an opponent or goes out of bounds through an opponent’s end zone;

(d) a muffed scrimmage kick recovered by the kicking team;

(e) after the two-minute warning of each half;

(f) throughout any overtime period; and

(g) any disqualification of a player

Is this like the college football targeting rule?

The NFL did consider whether or not automatic ejections are part of the language included in the new rule, ultimately deciding against it.

In college football, automatic ejections — which are then reviewed — are issued for violations of the “targeting rule,” which is defined in the rulebook as follows:

“Targeting” means that a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball.

Launch — a player leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make forcible contact in the head or neck area

A crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area, even though one or both feet are still on the ground

Leading with helmet, shoulder, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area

Lowering the head before attacking by initiating forcible contact with the crown of the helmet

The biggest similarity between the NFL’s new rule and college football’s targeting rule is the last sentence that outlaws the lowering of the helmet to initiate contact. But for now, the NFL hasn’t officially added an automatic ejection, although that could be on the way.

What is the NFL and what are players saying about the change?

The league’s stance about the change doesn’t seem to indicate that they expect a huge difference on the field. According to the competition committee, it would’ve resulted in just 5-10 more ejections during the 2017 season.

The NFL also doesn’t believe it has to slow the game down much:

There is hope that with modern technology and command center in New York, play may not need to be stopped to review for possible ejection after a flag. But this is all part of what will be discussed over the next couple months. Clarity expected by May meeting.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 28, 2018

Players are unimpressed, though. Some of the league’s most vocal defensive players have expressed concerns.

“I don’t know how you’re going to play the game,” Washington cornerback Josh Norman told USA Today. “If your helmet comes in contact? How are you going to avoid that if you’re in the trenches and hit a running back, facemask to facemask, and accidentally graze the helmet? It’s obviously going to happen. So, I don’t know even what that definition looks like.”

Text from former NFL linebacker: “Can’t believe how ridiculous this lowering of the head thing is. Go back and watch any game and you will see probably 30 to 50 examples of guys lowering their head on contact. A f——— mess. Why does the NFL want to self-destruct?”

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 28, 2018

“It’s ridiculous,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman told USA Today. “Like telling a driver if you touch the lane lines, you’re getting a ticket. (It’s) gonna lead to more lower-extremity injuries.”

Following those comments, Goodell said players reacting to the new rule haven’t had a chance to sit with the league and understand its intent and implementation.

But meetings with officials as training camps have opened haven’t done much to reassure players or clarify the new rule to them.

Eagles players were vocal about being even more confused by the rule after a sit down with refs.

“We were trying to ask questions to get a better understanding, and yet they couldn’t really give us an answer,” linebacker Nigel Bradham told ESPN. “They couldn’t give us what we were looking for.”

In perhaps the most troubling sign of the confusion to come over the rule came when refs were asked about safety Malcolm Jenkins’ hit on then-Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks in Super Bowl LII. The officials on the scene couldn’t agree if it was legal or not.

For now, teams are spending time at training camp going over the “Way to Play,” i.e. the NFL’s term for how to properly use the helmet while tackling, hitting and blocking.

Expect to be hearing PLENTY more about the new helmet rule every week throughout the preseason and regular season.

NFL Cal Tustin Show Take 1 Monday after Super Sunday Scores/Stats of AFC & NFC Title Games

Scores and Stats of the New England at Denver Game and San Francisco vs Seattle Game, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks R going to the Suoer Bowl for the 2nd time in franchise history vs the Denver Broncos

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