New England Patriots

Count the Patriots’ Adrian Clayborn among the many who don’t like the NFL’s newest rule change.

The league is instituting a new rule that sounds ominously like the mere act of tackling is going to be legislated out of the game. The ruling reads: “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. The player may be disqualified. Applies to any player anywhere on the field.”

What’s worrisome is the last part of the rule. So now, offensive and defensive players can be flagged for lowering their head to initiate contact with their helmets. Which is something that a running back does pretty much every time he runs between the tackles.

It’s also something that any defensive lineman or linebacker would do to make a simple tackle. Adrian Clayborn is one of those guys, and he voiced his displeasure with the rule in clever fashion via Twitter on Tuesday.

The hope is that the rule change – designed to deter players from “targeting” opponents with the crown of their helmets, as in college football – isn’t over-officiated to the point where the flags are flying on every play. It’d be hard to believe that the league would want the officials to penalize players as often as this rule would indicate. Realistically, the likelihood is that they save the flags for egregious helmet hits like the one Danny Trevathan leveled against the Packers’ Davante Adams last season.

Much like holding penalties, you could probably flag someone for lowering their head to initiate contact on every play. Certainly any play involving a simple tackle. And you could probably spot it in the trenches on every single snap of the game. So it’s incredible to think that the league would realistically flag players as frequently as this rule would indicate.

Until we see the rule put into practice in games that count – you may see excessive flags in the preseason as a form of adjusting players to the change – it’ll be hard to gauge just how big a difference this rule will have on the games. But you can’t blame Clayborn and others for feeling like the game as they know it is being taken away from them.

— By Matt Dolloff,

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at