Late in the fourth quarter of the Seattle Seahawks’ 19-17 preseason loss to the Indianapolis Colts, quarterback Alex McGough threw a long ball downfield to an open David Moore. The ball was overthrown, Moore was unable to bring it in, then he took a direct shot to the head by safety Shamarko Thomas, who lowered his helmet and essentially torpedoed into him. Flags were thrown, and referee Craig Wrolstad announced that Thomas had been ejected, making him the first player tossed under the NFL’s amended helmet rules.
There are no updates on Moore’s status, but that looked nasty, it was nasty, and Colts head coach Frank Reich also had no issue with the ejection. Hopefully Moore is okay, and we’ll presumably know a bit more when the Seahawks return to practice on Sunday.
“That was very disappointing. I’m very disappointed,” Reich said. “We don’t teach that. That was a good call, that was the appropriate call, he should have been ejected. ... That could have been avoided, should have been avoided, and the referees did the right thing.”
In a push to make the game safer, “Lowering your helmet” to make a tackle is now a 15-yard penalty, and there has been much controversy over how that rule will be applied. Referees have been told to err on the side of caution and throw more flags during preseason, so the “they’ll throw a flag on every play” concerns about the regular season and postseason may be a little too alarmist.
This is what NFL Communications has to say and clarify about the new rules:
Contact does not have to be to an opponent’s head or neck area – lowering the head and initiating contact to an opponent’s torso, hips, and lower body, is also a foul. Violations of the rule will be easier to see and officiate when they occur in open space – as opposed to close line play – but this rule applies anywhere on the field at any time.
Penalties for Violation: Loss of 15 yards. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down. The player may also be ejected. Ejection standards:
1. Player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet
2. Unobstructed path to his opponent
3. Contact clearly avoidable and player delivering the blow had other options
Thomas’ hit on Moore clearly meets ejection standards, and that’s exactly what we don’t want to see in the game.
Seattle was also penalized for “lowering the helmet,” as Akeem King ran into Nyheim Hines on a muffed punt, but he was not ejected, and he certainly didn’t recklessly launch himself into Hines like we saw with Thomas.
With the way the Seahawks are taught to tackle, this really shouldn’t affect them that much, if at all. They’ve long emphasized leading with the shoulder instead of the head, and perhaps that’ll be the long-term future of the NFL.
Update: Well then. Goodbye, Shamarko Thomas.