John Raoux/Associated Press
Lee exited the game in the first quarter after Falcons safety Damontae Kazee hit him low. Ramsey didn’t place the blame for Lee’s injury squarely on Kazee, though, per ESPN.com’s Michael DiRocco:
“You can’t be mad at 27 [Kazee]. You have to be mad at the NFL; not mad at them, but that is how the rule is. People are scared to tackle normal because I guess they don’t want to do helmet-to-helmet and get flagged. … Game-changing stuff could happen. You don’t really want to blame anyone, but you feel bad for him. … I don’t know, man, that’s just tough to see it happen to one of my teammates, period, but you can’t really blame 27.”
While the NFL already had rules in place to outlaw helmet-to-helmet hits, it broadened the standards this offseason to include “initiating contact with the helmet to any part of an opponent.” A violation of the rule could lead to an ejection.
Granted, Ramsey’s argument predates the NFL’s new tackling rules.
Back in 2010, former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison discussed the unintended consequence of the league’s attempts to punish players for hits around the helmet area. Defenders would likely start targeting opponents lower and lower, thus raising the risk of a serious knee injury to the ball-carrier.
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is among those to go on the record, saying he’d rather risk a possible concussion because of a helmet-to-helmet hit than suffer a torn ACL that rules him out for most of the season.
After Jaguars safety Barry Church was penalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Gronkowski in the 2018 AFC Championship Game, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said defensive players are often caught in a no-win situation:
Richard Sherman @RSherman_25
The hit on Gronk is the only way Church could have done his job without just obliterating Gronks knee. If he would have just hit him low most ppl would calm him dirty. So there is nothing he can do to make everyone happy and do his job. Unless you think he should let him catch
Following the second week of the 2018 NFL preseason, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent indicated the NFL’s Competition Committee didn’t plan on amending the new tackling rule.
Ramsey’s comments could force the committee to reassess the issue, but it seems likely NFL defenders will simply have to adjust to what is the new normal.