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Grasping the helmet opening penalty confuses 'Monday Night Football' viewers

Yahoo! Sports logo Yahoo! Sports 12/11/2018 Jason Owens

a man holding a baseball bat in front of a crowd: Sorry Seahawks fans. The refs got this one right. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) © Provided by Oath Inc. Sorry Seahawks fans. The refs got this one right. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) Viewers of Monday’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings were confused by an early penalty call.

Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner got flagged for grasping the helmet opening while tackling Vikings running back Dalvin Cook.

Grasping the helmet opening?

It was a costly penalty for the Seahawks that awarded the Vikings a first down instead of them facing fourth-and-15 from their own 10-yard line.

It was also a call that most people have never heard of.

Seattle fans, Twitter not happy

At first glance, Wagner’s tackle looked legitimate. The call drew boos from the Seahawks home crowd and a dismissive hand swipe from head coach Pete Carroll.

It also produced plenty of outcry on Twitter.

Not a new penalty

As it turns out, the penalty that NFL referees called in a professional football game is an actual penalty. And it’s not a new one.

From Article 6, subsection J of the NFL rulebook regarding plays that warrant a personal foul:

grabbing a helmet opening of an opponent and forcibly twisting, turning, or pulling his head

Good call

So Wagner was flagged for grabbing the opening of Cook’s helmet while making the tackle. The infraction was enforced similarly to a facemask or horse-collar tackle, both of which also result in 15-yard penalties.

The odd thing here is that if Wagner had pulled Cook down by his dreadlocks, no flag would have been thrown. That’s perfectly legal.

In a season where referees are under increased scrutiny for the flags they throw, this is one that they got right.

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