The NFL appears to have completely abandoned its newly-instated helmet rule that caused loads of controversy in the first couple weeks of the preseason. No penalties were called on Tedric Thompson after he nearly took Brandin Cooks head clean off of his body late in the second quarter of Rams-Seahawks.
Back in August, the NFL released a quick factsheet on how to determine whether or not a hit was a penalty. There are three things officials look for: 1) If a player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet, 2) There is an unobstructed path to his opponent, and 3) The contact was clearly avoidable and the player delivering the blow had other options. It looks like this hit was three for three.
There is an argument that Cooks lowered his head into the hit, which would be the only reason helmet contact was made, but if the spirit of the rule is to protect players—which clearly did not happen here—then why wasn’t something even temporarily called? The flags that flew during the play were for defensive holding, not for anything that happened to Cooks after the catch. Additionally, even if this hit technically falls into a loophole within the system, why does that loophole even exist? Cooks’ body went disturbingly limp after the contact; that shouldn’t be happening. Thankfully for whoever runs the NFL’s PR, Cooks is alive (for now) and was able to walk off the field on his own power.
At some point or another the NFL is going to have to answer for its inconsistent rulings when it comes to the safety of their players. The league can pretend that it has things figured out all they want, but the system keeps coming up broken. Michael Bennett can’t incidentally tip over a quarterback, but Thompson can put a life-threatening hit on another person? That’s exactly what I want to see in my football!