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By: Josh Taylor, KDKA-TV Sports
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The NFL’s rule changes in effect for the upcoming season will have an impact both before games and then after kickoff.
Among those policies are a new mandate on players and coaches on the field standing for the anthem, and another rule that allows ejections for players that initiate contact with their helmets. The league continues their pursuit to eliminate head-to-head contact from the game, and it was well-received from at least a couple players on the rosters.
“Well that’s good to protect the safety of the game, but I just want to protect myself,” said wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was knocked out of a playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals three seasons ago because of a helmet-to-helmet hit by linebacker Vontaze Burfict. “Being hit is part of the game, but obviously, that rule helps protect us players from the crazy players who want to take you out.”
Brown also took a helmet-to-helmet hit from safety George Iloka while catching the game-tying touchdown pass against the Bengals last December. Brown stayed in the game, and Iloka was penalized for the hit, but not punished any further.
“I know some guys, that’s how they tackle,” Brown said. “That’s what they do. We can always get better with it.”
With the rule change, the players on defense say they must be aware of how they approach the game and be more disciplined.
“I think you’ve still just got to play fast,” said safety Morgan Burnett, who signed with the Steelers as a free agent in the offseason. “This is when you use training camp, when you get the pads on and you can start practicing the right technique. You want to make sure you’re tackling with the right technique and in the right position.”
Burnett says he was not surprised by the proposed rule change when he heard it.
“I play the game like I normally play the game,” he said. “I’m not going to try to do [anything] dirty or try to do anything to harm another guy. But I’m going to go out and play hard and play physical within the rules. I always took pride in that, and I’ve been doing that since I’ve been in the league, so I don’t think that will affect my game at all.”
Also among the rule changes are several clarifications regarding kickoffs, after the league found data that revealed that concussions were five times more likely to happen on kickoffs in 2017 than on other plays.