Spirit and Letter
If you've been coming here for a while, you probably know a bit about how my goofy mind works. I cannot stop thinking about stuff that seems illogical to me.
Well, the fact that the NFL so clearly sees the hit that Pittsburgh's Ryan Shazier unloaded on Cincinnati's Giovani Bernard in the NFL playoffs as LEGAL (all capital letters) is one of those illogical things. I simply could not see how a hit leading with the crown of the helmet could be considered LEGAL when the NFL rulebook states, unequivocally, that a hit leading with the crown of the helmet is ILLEGAL.
So, I looked into it, with the help of Peter King, the NFL's official video and, mostly, former VP of Officiating Mike Pereira. It turns out there is a very clear reason why the hit is considered LEGAL now and will be considered LEGAL unless the rule gets changed. But the answer probably won't be very satisfying to you. It wasn't to me. It comes down to a simple fact: The NFL rulebook isn't about what is written. It is about what is unwritten.
Here is the story: Letter of the Law