As this is the first installment of my NFL Hard Count series, I figured it would be wise to breakdown what this is going to be all about.
First, this serves as an outlet for me personally to discuss things with you which may not pertain solely to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It may be strange at first to consider a site dedicated to the coverage of one NFL franchise discussing topics about the other 31 NFL teams, but what happens in the football community is important to all active members. So, the connection is there, even if it isn’t so obvious.
There are three parts to this: False Start, Offside, and Free Play. As these are the three things which normally happen on a football field when an effective hard count is executed, I figure we pay homage to these and theme our topics in the same fashion.
In those segments, we’ll talk about some things which may not have gone the way the person or team intended (False Start), something I disagree with from the past week or whatever period we’re talking about (Offside), and then a wild card so to speak where I’ll find something for each installment to hopefully peak your interest and spark some comment section conversations (Free Play).
Got it? Alright then, let’s get right to it.
FALSE START: THE NFL’S NEW HELMET RULE
According to Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8,
“It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.”
The penalty is considered a personal foul and comes with a fifteen-yard penalty and if committed by a defensive player also comes with an automatic first down.
This new rule also opens the door to possible disqualification.
That’s it. That’s the rule….in its entirety. In contrast, roughing or running into the kicker has two items in its article describing how the rule applies to players in the air versus on the ground among seven other scenarios in which a defensive player might contact a kicker.
But for this rule. This rule gets one sentence, no situational guidance, and a penalty description which includes possible ejection from the game.
What could the player be ejected for? Well, it doesn’t say in the NFL’s ruling document itself.
Note: The NFL did later deliver what they were looking for when discussing possible ejections for this rule.
The unveiling of this new rule quickly took center stage in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. On a night which should have centered on remembering the great contributions of the 2018 class, enjoying the first bit of live football in months, and looking to see if Lamar Jackson was lined up at quarterback or wide receiver; instead we were left a lot of questions and many Twitter reactions to this new rule.
Oh.. so this new helmet rule isn’t gonna be controversial at all pic.twitter.com/Tj0JszrqzH— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) August 3, 2018
Just when we thought we might be inching beyond the whole ‘what is and isn’t a catch’ era, in comes the ‘what is and isn’t leading with the head’ to follow it up.
However, as some pointed out also on Twitter, all is not lost.
Real quick on the helmet rule. They are going to over call it during the preseason. When they changed the hands to the face rule a few years ago, they threw 5+ flags a preseason game on the OL. They realized it was called too often and stopped the frequency during regular season— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) August 3, 2018
Whew! Ok. So this makes me feel better. I actually tweeted something similar but hearing it from an actual NFL Veteran has a better feel to it.
The pre-season isn’t just a time when players and coaches work towards getting their collective acts together, it’s also a time for the officials and league itself to do the same.
I’m sure the NFL front-office has looked at each hit called and uncalled from the Hall of Fame Game to tune some of these calls and no-calls.
For now, it definitely was not the smoothest execution of a new rule implementation. But we’re still a month away from regular season action. So, we can breathe a bit. Now, if we see the same stuff in Week 4 of the pre-season, all bets are off.
OFFSIDE: TERRELL OWENS HALL OF FAME INDUCTION
Wide receiver Terrell Owens had a career which saw him play for the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.
He might be the Dan Marino of wide receivers, being the best one to never win a ring.
What overshadowed Owens’ talent at times was his personality. Whether it be pulling a sharpie from his sock, eating popcorn after a score, standing on the star in Dallas, etc, etc, etc…his personality almost always took center stage.
His interactions with the media weren’t always the smoothest either. Perhaps this is the reason he wasn’t a first ballot Hall of Fame selection. One can argue his statistics alone put him among the best to ever do it, but for whatever reason, the voters didn’t see fit to put him in until his third look. That’s there prerogative.
And then came Owens’ induction ceremony and speech which didn’t take place in Canton, Ohio. Instead he chose to hold his celebration at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
My take on this is simply this:
Owens spent his career doing things his way because he didn’t see the reason why he needed to fit into whatever mold people expected him to fit into. Fine, I understand this to a certain extent.
Was it petty for the voters of the Hall of Fame to pass him over twice? Yes. Yes it was. But, the door was opened for such pettiness by Owens’ own actions. Actions he took at times with the intention of frustrating those very voters.
Now, I’m not defending the act of denying a player who had a career well deserving of enshrinement the honor of induction. What I’m saying is, if you act one way you should expect to have a similar or greater reaction.
This was the writers’ reaction. Similarly, Owens had his reaction, which led to the ceremony in Tennessee. Eventually someone is going to have the last word. Neither side is willing to let the other have it though.
In his speech, Owens said he decided to do his ceremony elsewhere to prevent what happened to him from happening to someone else.
Problem is, this didn’t happen to Owens. He orchestrated this. No, it doesn’t make it right, but it’s still a fact.
Every once in a while I see someone in my workplace acting ‘clownish’, and when I do I ask them if they’d like to be treated like a clown or like a professional. They never respond they want to be treated like a clown.
So, if Terrell Owens didn’t want to be treated like an unappreciated outsider, then he probably shouldn’t have acted like one.
Owens should have been a first ballot Hall of Famer. But nobody stole the distinction from him. He chose through his many actions, not as a young 22-year old player but throughout his career, to open the door for those with the ability to deny him the opportunity and motivation to do so.
FREE PLAY: MY PRESEASON PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ok, so this isn’t the hardest hitting item out there. But it’s finally game week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and this might be my fourth favorite part of the football year behind the post-season, draft, and free-agent period.
The pre-season is where you see the majority of your depth. Guys you might not see again until they’re ‘surprising’ everyone with their sudden regular season performance.
I remember the first time I really sat down and looked at a pre-season match-up with any eye towards the future. It was a New York Giants game. Who they were playing I can’t remember, but I do remember Victor Cruz.
Now, I didn’t break down his play from a release, stem manipulation, break, etc. standpoint, but I did think about how he looked like someone with real talent.
When he broke onto the NFL scene, I was even more excited. Who doesn’t like being right?
All these years later I’ve got my eyes on some Bucs players looking to make their mark on Tampa Bay’s active roster. My specific five are Shaun Wilson, Justin Watson, Caleb Benenoch/Alex Cappa, M.J. Stewart and Vernon Hargreaves III.
Not all rookies. All young guys though.
I can’t wait to see what they look like this coming Thursday against the Miami Dolphins, and I hope you are all just as excited to see our Bucs take the field for the first time in 2018.
That wraps up my first hard-count. Hope you guys enjoyed it. Let me know your thoughts on any of these topics or all at once. Who are the players you’re watching closely this pre-season? And what are your predictions for mine?