Owners were originally concerned with the rule due to how it may be called, but those concerns have apparently been put to rest. Dean Blandino, NFL vice president of officiating, has stated that players will only be penalized in obvious situations, when a helmet is blatantly lowered intentionally and driven into a defender. The rule also does not apply to goal-line and short-yardage situations.
The violation will result in a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul. If both the offensive and defensive player lower their helmets into one another, the penalties will offset and the down will be replayed.
While this may seem like yet another step away from the game we love, this rule makes sense for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's unfair to ask defenders to avoid lowering their helmet while tackling if the ball carrier is allowed to pound his helmet into the defender. In addition, when the ball carrier's helmet is lowered, it is difficult for a defender to avoid making contact with the ball carrier's head, increasing the risk of both penalty and injury. The new rule doesn't just decrease injury risk for the defender - it also decreases injury risk for the ball carrier, who by lowering his head leaves himself susceptible to concussions and neck injuries.
The biggest issue with the rule is that running backs don't often think, "Hm, should I lower my head or my shoulder into this defender?" It's tough to change a player's instincts, which is why there are still a lot of incidental helmet-to-helmet hits. Hopefully, the officials stick to their word and only call the blatantly obvious violations.
While the rule can be considered reasonable, it is really a shame that we will no longer be able to see plays like this:
Oh well. The game is changing, and we just have to get used to it.
In other rule-related news, the owners also voted to get rid of the infamous tuck rule. 29 of 30 votes were in favor of ridding the tuck rule. Surprise, surprise: the Patriots chose to abstain.