Ryan Shazier on new NFL tackling rule his injury inspired: adjusting to it will be difficult
Some have called it The Ryan Shazier Rule. But the man whose injury inspired it has lukewarm thoughts about the NFL's newest regulation governing tackling.
Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8 was passed by unanimous vote at the league meetings in March: "It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent." Doing so will result in a 15-yatrd penalty and possible ejection.
It was during a Dec. 4 game in Cincinnati that Shazier suffered a spinal injury that cost him at least the remainder of the 2017 season and the full 2018 season. Under the new rule, Shazier would have been flagged for the tackle on Bengals receiver Joe Malone.
Playing Rule Article 8: 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. The player may be disqualified.— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) March 27, 2018
The rule is designed to protect the tacklers from injury such as the one Shazier underwent. While Shazier understands that, he sees difficulty in asking defensive players to adjust to a new style of tackling.
"Honestly I have been playing football when I was 4, so some of the hits that I did were some of the same ones I've had since I was 10 years old," Shazier said Wednesday during his first news conference since the injury.
"So it's kind of hard when they are trying to tell you to avoid hitting a certain way because at the end of the day, a lot of people who are playing this game have been probably playing it since before they could really speak full sentences, and honestly it's a little hard.
"But you just have to start playing the way they want you to play, start tackling more with your shoulders, I guess, and just to completely avoid people's upper half. At the end of the day it's kind of hard if somebody is coming at you a certain way – but you have just go play the way they want you to."
At the outset of organized team activities late last month, many Steelers players endorsed the new rule, although most said it would take an adjustment period .
Shazier's teammate and Steelers defensive captain Cameron Heyward on Wednesday endorsed the rule but also opined how it would be called.
"Those are things we preach in Little League: 'Keep your head up. Tackle with your shoulder pads. We don't want our helmet to be used as a violent weapon,'" Heyward said. "I would just say along with that, you look for the ways their going to call it. It's going to be you get a running back and a linebacker in open grass (or) when the guard is pulling when he can't lower his head anymore, it's going to be hard to call it right in line because there is so much going on there.
"But you want to take those hits out because they don't benefit anybody."
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.