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September 5, 2012TUSCALOOSA | It didn't take long for the new NCAA helmet rule to be invoked on the University of Alabama player. And in the interest of safety, UA coach Nick Saban has no complaints.
The new rule requires players to exit the game for at least one play for an equipment check if their helmet comes off during play, excepting cases where an opponent pulls it off. UA running back Eddie Lacy lost his helmet on the Crimson Tide's second offensive series during Alabama's 41-14 win over Michigan Saturday, becoming the first UA player to miss some action under the rule.
He was replaced by freshman T.J. Yeldon, who went onto have a key hand in a touchdown drive that series. Saban said Monday that he favors the rule.
"I think it's a good rule. I think it's in the interest of player safety. I think that we only had two occasions where it was a problem, and one a guy got a facemask penalty for ripping the guy's helmet off and the other guy claims that his helmet was pulled off in the pile," Saban said. "I think it makes players conscious of fitting their helmet properly and buckling it up properly, which is for player safety."
The rule also prohibits a player who loses his helmet during play from continuing participation during the remainder of that play.
Offensive linemen can lose their helmets at times when defensive linemen drive their hands underneath an offensive lineman's facemask to gain leverage. Under the rule, such an occasion would not require an offensive lineman to sit out a play. Still, UA right guard Anthony Steen would just as soon not have the rule.
"I really don't like it. But it's one of the rules we have to go by," Steen said.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said Saban has emphasized the importance of each player securing all four helmet buckles on more than one occasion.
"He doesn't want to lose a great player to have to come off for a play if something goes wrong," Clinton-Dix said. "He's on that very tight."
Clinton-Dix said he won't ever be caught with his chinstrap fastened improperly.
"Always," he said. "Always, all the time."
Added Saban: "I hate to see players get penalized, but I also think players have to be responsible to wear their helmet properly and snap it up properly, so you minimize the risk."
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.