Christian Blake wasn’t taking any chances; New Orleans’ Janoris Jenkins had cut in front of the Falcons receiver and was about to intercept Matt Ryan. The closest part of Jenkins Blake could grab to stop the interception was his dreadlocks.
So, Blake pulled Jenkins’ hair.
Blake’s hair-pulling may not have been the only reason that Jenkins didn’t grab his second interception of the season for the Saints, but it helped the cause and prevented a Falcons turnover during the first half of their Week 11 game. It also led to points, with Atlanta’s Younghoe Koo hitting a 52-yard field goal two plays later to put the Falcons up temporarily 9-3.
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The NFL in 2003 passed the “Ricky Rule” — named after running back Ricky Williams — ruling that hair is part of a player’s uniform. And, just as a player can pull on the back of an opponent’s shirt to make a play, so too can they pull hair during tackle attempts.
In Oct. 2018 Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, said the league was considering changing its rules on hair-pulling. That didn’t happen, though, with some pointing out that a penalty for hair-pulling would incentivize players to grow their hair longer in the interests of getting the occasional penalty.
Jenkins has had hair visible outside of his helmet dating back to his days in college at Florida in the early 2010s; his usual NFL style is dreadlocks. Ryan has burned Jenkins at least once before in the NFL, in 2018, when Ryan found Marvin Hall for a 47-yard touchdown beyond Jenkins.
In Week 11, it appeared Jenkins would get the better of Ryan. But Blake, who didn’t have a catch at the time he turned into a defender, might’ve made his most important play of the game to prevent a turnover.