Two new safety measures in the NFL have coaches and players around the league worried they will determine wins and losses, in addition to costing some people their jobs.
The rule changes are simple to explain, but very difficult for the players to follow.
One new rule doesn't allow players to lead with their helmets when making a tackle or a block. The other rule makes it illegal to drive a player to the ground with full body weight behind the hit.
Two outstanding examples of the rules occurred during the Vikings-Jaguars preseason game on Saturday. The first was a call against Jaguars safety A.J. Bouye for leading with his helmet when tackling fullback C.J. Ham, although the replay clearly shows Bouye getting trucked by Ham.
Even though the penalty turned a 2nd-and-21 into a first down for the Vikings, Zimmer sent the replay to the league office to find out why it was a called.
"The guy is tackling him around his legs, and he had his head to the side for the most part," Zimmer said Monday, via Vikings.com. "I actually sent that in, to ask them, 'Why was this called?'"
It was one of many plays Zimmer had questions about. One that he agreed with, however, was the roughing the passer penalty on linebacker Antwione Williams.
Zimmer was angry at first, but after watching it back on video he agreed that Williams used his body weight to slam the quarterback to the ground.
Regardless, the lack of clarity about what a penalty is has safety Harrison Smith convinced that the new rules will determine wins and losses.
“It is going to happen. Without a doubt, that is going to happen,” Smith said Monday. “If you get a big sack, that changes field position, that changes, maybe getting a guy out of field goal range, get them on third-and-long or something like that, or get off the field on third down. Then it’s a whole new set of downs. It is going to change games.”
Defensive tackle Linval Joseph agrees.
"A big play at a critical time of a game can cost a game," Joseph said. "A sack that is miscalled or overcalled and give up that sack and give them a first down, it could be a critical play of a game – and any team can lose a game with that."
There's a growing fear that the rules will lead to even bigger costs.
"Yeah, it’s going to cost some people some jobs," Zimmer said. "Playoffs, jobs, the whole bit, I’m guessing."
Zimmer noted that officials tend to call penalties on new rules extensively in the preseason before backing off a bit during the regular season, but he's not sure that'll be the case this season.
"No one has ever said to me, 'Hey, don’t worry, we’re going to call less,' or 'We’re going to straighten out in the regular season,' or 'We’re going to come up with a revised rule.' No one has ever said that."