Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis can bring the thunder when he hits a ball carrier. The physical nature in which he plays the linebacker position was one of the things that attracted the Lions to him and made him a first-round selection last season.
There were times last year as a rookie however where Davis toed that line of being too physical and close to drawing a penalty. He was fined for tackle on Jermaine Gresham late in the year.
The NFL took further steps to make the game safer this offseason, and it means defenders like Davis have to be very good about proper tackling techniques moving forward.
In an effort to take the helmet out of the game as a weapon, the league approved a new rule at last month’s league meetings which will now result is a 15-yard penalty and a possible ejection whenever a player lowers his head to initiate contact with an opponent.
Instant replay can be used to help determine whether a player should be ejected for lowering his head to use his helmet to deliver a hit.
“Our focus is how to take the head out of the game and make sure that we’re using the helmet as protection and it’s not being used as a weapon,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the meetings. “That’s the core of what we’re focused on.”
It’s a rule that defenders like Davis will have to adjust to this offseason, but it’s also a rule Davis is in favor of.
“It's definitely something that's going to take care of us as players and it's going to make you a more of a fundamentally sound player as well,” Davis said.
“It's something you have to continue to practice, you have to continue to work on every single day because when you get tired that's when you go back to those bad habits. That's when you really risk injury - hurting yourself, hurting other players. I think it’s a good rule to help take care of everybody.”
The NFL is increasing trying to find better ways to protect players, whether its creating rules to protecting defenseless players, limiting the dangerous nature of kickoff returns, trying to take the helmet out of tackling and even with the recent release of a study that identified 10 underperforming helmets that will be phased out of the game before the start of the season.
Davis plays the game with an edge and a physical style that’s a bit of a throwback, but he knows he has to adapt to the new NFL rules to better protect players. He says he’ll make the proper adjustments to continue to play within the rules.
“It’s just something you have to jump on early,” he said. “If you jump on it early it’s never really going to be a problem to change how you do things or how things are done around you.
“It’s just something that you really have to make sure you pay attention to detail on and put the extra work in.”