Carolina Panthers running back Fozzy Whittaker (43) is tackled before getting a first down during the first quarter of the NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta upsets Carolina 20-13 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA. (Photos by Frank Mattia/Icon Sportswire) (Photo by Frank Mattia/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

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The Key Word in the NFL’s Helmet Ruling? “Inadvertent.”

The league’s clarification of the new rule allows for unintended helmet contact.

Players and coaches might not like it, but the NFL is standing by its controversial helmet rule.

However, in a statement about the rule released by the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, the league did make one, important clarification.

“The committee resolved that there will be no changes to the rule as approved by clubs this spring, which includes no additional use of instant replay,” Troy Vincent said in his statement. “The committee also determined that inadvertent or incidental contact with the helmet and/or face mask is not a foul.”

The important word is “inadvertent,” because it now gives officials the opportunity to determine if contact made by the lowering of the head was intentional or not. Previously, any contact made as a result of lowering the head was deemed to be illegal and could be penalized.

By allowing for unintended helmet contact, the league is putting the onus on the officials to make judgment calls as opposed to just sticking to a black-and-white ruling. Hopefully that will cut down on the number of penalties resulting from the new rule. Thus far, they’ve been prevalent and there have been 51 penalties flagged under the new rule in 33 preseason games.

“As all adjust to the new rule, we will continue to provide video feedback and examples of fouls and incorrect calls to coaches, players and officials over the next two weeks and throughout the season as this new rule is implemented,” Vincent said in the statement.

Read the full story at ProFootballTalk