Keeping a lid on it: NCAA’s new helmet rule not making fans of coaches and players

Georgia nose guard John Jenkins laughed when asked if he played a part in Missouri quarterback James Franklin having to go to the sidelines for a play in the fourth quarter Saturday when his helmet came off.

Keeping a lid on it: NCAA's new helmet rule not making fans of coaches and players
Marc Weiszer

“I was just trying to get the tackle and trying to strip the ball,” Jenkins said “I had no part in that.”

Franklin, a dual-threat quarterback, twice was forced out under a new NCAA rule that mandates that a player leave the game for a play when a helmet comes off, provided it isn’t pulled or knocked off illegally.

“He didn’t take it off, he was in a scrum, in a big pile of players,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Wednesday of the second time Franklin had to exit the game in the 41-20 Georgia win. “The snaps were undone. It wasn’t because it wasn’t snapped and just came off. You couldn’t tell really what happened underneath there. That presents a problem not only for Missouri, but for Georgia or anybody if a quarterback gets tackled in a big pile of players and all of a sudden the helmet comes off however it comes off.”



The new rule came about as an enhanced safety measure after an increase in helmets coming off players and concern about a player trying to make a tackle or block without a helmet. Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones lost his helmet several times against Boise State last year. Missouri will try to make sure that Franklin’s snaps stay fastened, Pinkel said.

Georgia players have made that part of their weekly preparation.

“I kind of changed up my chin strap,” offensive tackle Kenarious Gates said. “Last year my chin strap used to get wet and it kept loosening up and it popped up. I tape it up a little bit, make sure it’s tight and make sure everything fits well.”

Jones said this preseason that he got a new helmet that would be tighter on him.

“A lot of times last year they pulled my helmet off,” he said.

Linebacker Amarlo Herrera said he tightened up his chin strap after his helmet came off during a preseason scrimmage and he had to leave the field.

“I don’t too much like the rule,” Herrera said “If you get hit hard, your helmet is going to come off.”

Missouri had reason not to like the rule when Franklin was tackled by Mike Gilliard and Herrera on a three-yard run in the first quarter and his helmet flew off.

Backup Corbin Berkstresser came in for a third-and-three at the Missouri 29. He ran for two yards but was a yard short of the first down. Missouri punted.

Pinkel said that “you become much more cautious with the backup quarterback.”

Franklin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that on the first time his helmet slipped off it was because his shoulder pads pushed up into it. The second time, however, he said a defender pulled the helmet off his head at the bottom of a pile.

“We weren’t doing anything malicious,” Georgia inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti said. “We were just playing football.”

Jenkins tackled Franklin for a two-yard loss in the fourth quarter. Defensive end Cornelius Washington was in on the play after the tackle. It’s not clear from the television replay if Franklin’s helmet was pulled off.

“I just hope it doesn’t happen again,” Pinkel said. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years and have never had to pull a quarterback out for a play and put him back in, and by the way he didn’t take his helmet off.”

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said: “I can promise you we didn’t intentionally take it off.”

Berkstresser threw an incomplete pass in the fourth quarter on the second play he was in the game. Georgia was called for pass interference.

“I don’t understand the reason for the rule,” Grantham said. “From my interpretation, if it’s to save concussions, the helmet doesn’t do that. Helmets don’t protect that. It’s the way you tackle, keeping your head up and doing those things. I know that there’s been a lot of hard work put in to try and make the game safer. I’m sure it will be something they’ll look at going forward.”

Ron Courson, Georgia’s director of sports medicine, said helmets were designed to prevent skull fractures. He said the rule was put in effect to reduce head injuries overall.

“When the rule change went into effect, a lot of of people assumed it was because of concussions,” Courson said, “but it’s really more head injuries in general.”

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo makes sure that he keeps his helmet buckled and strapped..

“(Christian) LeMay is ready to go at all times,” Murray said. “Knock on wood, I hope it stays on so I don’t miss any plays.”

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