Here's a transcript of what Tom Coughlin had to say about the new crown of the helmet rule just an hour or so before it actually passed at the NFC coaches breakfast at the league meetings here in Arizona:
What do you think of thenew helmet rule?
I think we’re into the details in the meeting rooms, discussing all of the ramifications, but the number one thought here is the safety of our players. There is an effort which was discussed in Indianapolis about how the helmet was trying to be taken out of the game and the idea there was not only professional football but college football, high school football, all the way down to youth football. It’s a major emphasis on the teaching of the proper techniques that we were all taught when we first started the play that even though they are still reinforced you have a couple of guys if you look around on each team who have a tendency to want to drop that head. As long as I can ever remember, playing or coaching, and I used to get that because I was a wing and we got our heads jammed down a lot the way it was played in the old days when I played, you got into people and they were always kind of shoving your head down. You’re trying like heck never to be in that position, never to let the crown of your head be hit. Always have your eyes up, see what you hit and strike if you have to, if you must, with your head in that position. The emphasis being more on the shoulder. I see all of this as a continuation of the commissioner’s number one thought which is trying to keep the game just as physical and tough and hard-nosed as it is, but safely.
Are you in favor of it?
I’m in favor of the overall concept of taking (away) the crown of the head and the very improper positions that some people get themselves in, be it competitively or not because I don’t like the idea of some kind of consequence.
Will it be hard to teach?
Yes. Let’s put it this way. It’s easy to teach with you and I right here. I can teach you, you can get your head up, you can see what you’re going to hit. But in the competitiveness of the game is it going to be easy? It’s going to be difficult from the standpoint of a runner who, as people come to the runner and they get lower, lower, lower. The only thing that you’ve got to try to emphasize now is that the lower that they get they really can’t drop their heads forward like that. Again it’s because of the consequences.
Will it be hard to officiate?
That’s been the general discussions in the meeting rooms. Dean Blandino does not think it’s going to be any more difficult to officiate than (others) because you’re basically talking out in space, out of the tackle box kind of a play. When they looked at the tape, according to what we were told yesterday, they would have six plays a weekend which at the end of the season adds up to a lot of numbers. So it does reinforce the idea of: Get out in front of this before something tragic happens. That’s what the league is really trying to do. They’ve left it purposely as a, it’s not a long, detailed rule. They kind of structured it and said exactly what their thoughts are but they want it to be represented and understood and taught properly. They’re not looking for it to be over-officiated. They’re looking for the emphasis to be brought in when needed to keep people out of that position.
Was this a defensive penalty already?
It could be. The spearing and the launching and all that. It depends on the launch, how is your head? What position is your head in? You rarely see people like two rams. You rarely see that one. But you do see the one guy in that position and sometimes you see it, although not as often, from the glancing blow. They’re pretty sure they can officiate the glancing blow without (a penalty) because the runner is not in a position where he’s coming right at you.
Have you ever had a running back hurt using that technique?
Thank God not to this point but I can see it. I can see it when it’s corrected and I can listen to it when it’s corrected. I’ll be honest with you, as soon as you see that you have to go right to the player. Whether it’s in a game, in a practice. It could be a goal-line type of scrimmage in preseason. You have to go right to the player. You don’t want the player ever reinforced for the helmet being in that spot.
You've done that in the middle of a game?
Well, yes, I’ve done it. Not to take him and sit him down, just like this (grabs an arm) ‘Be careful. Be careful. Get your head up.’ That kind of thing. ‘Did you realize where your head was that time?’ I’m not going to say it’s done a lot because to be honest with you we haven’t had that many instances although you could challenge me on that depending on how closely you look at some of the tape. But that’s what all of you are questioning too because you want to write it right. You want to state it exactly like it is. I think what will happen is you’ll take the rule when you look at it and you’ll take it from there. And I don’t blame you. You don’t want to get it wrong. You’d like to get more hits with the shoulder. When we looked at the tape, there are a lot fo shoulder hits taking place and these safety ideas have started to take place. You see it with the crossing receivers and all of that type of thing, the idea of safer position being emphasized and understood. You’re starting to see that. This is just another step.
Jim Brown said he never used his head.
Jim Brown was so big and so powerful. I can remember him. You see the old tapes. He looks like he’s skipping sometimes and then all of a sudden the hits are – boom. But what you find is in the guys who are, I hate to put it this way, the shorter runners, when they get in that position that’s a tough spot to be.
Will the rule pass?
I don’t know that … There was lots of discussion in the room, which is a positive thing. Because everybody wants to get it right. Everybody wants to understand it properly. Let me put it this way: The commissioner wants this issue dealt with and there will be some type of resolution to this issue because the verbiage from the medical people in Indianapolis was not pretty in terms of some of these hits. Let’s face it. We want the game as tough, as hard-nosed, as physical as it can be. But also as safe as it can be.