In its bid to make football safer, the NFL could soon follow the NCAA's lead and automatically eject players for head shots. Former Vice President of NFL Officiating Mike Pereira believes it will happen, Pro Football Talk reports.
The new college football rule calls for the automatic ejection of any player who targets an opponent with a blow to the head. Pereira, now a rules analyst for Fox Sports, predicted the NFL would follow suit if the NCAA rule is successful this season.
Pereira predicated his prediction on the NFL needing to adapt a safer game if it wants to survive.
"The NFL has the same issues as college," Pereira said on the Big Ten Network. "This isn't all about college football. The rules are about parents who don't want to put their kids in Pop Warner football because they are scared of all coverage about concussions. So young kids are being turned away from the game.
"Those on the college and pro level have a responsibility to make the game safer on all levels. I have news for you: if the game dries up on the Pop Warner level, it will on every other level, too. There is no college or NFL football. It's a trickle-up effect."
Officiating is already changing to better protect players. Referees are typically told to err on the side of caution when assessing penalties, but with head hits, they are told to now err on the side of safety.
"It's contrary to any other concept of officiating," Pereira said. "We always told people to not throw the flag unless they are 110 percent sure. But in this area, over the past decade, it's become OK to err on the side of safety. They throw the flag on impact; they throw when they think it's close because the book tells them to do that. And the rules committee tells them to do that. They are charged with trying to protect players. They didn't make the rules. They don't mind doing this."
Referees have had the ability since 2007 to eject players for flagrant hits to the head, but have rarely done so. With the ever growing emphasis on safety, and if the new NCAA rule becomes a successful deterrent for helmet hits, the NFL could begin ejecting players much more often.