EAGAN, Minn. -- Hard-hitting safety Andrew Sendejo is directing an unmistakable message toward the NFL via a play on a popular political slogan.
The Minnesota safety donned a backward black hat during training camp with the phrase "Make Football Violent Again." According to Sendejo, the hat was a gift from a former Vikings teammate.
"It fits good and it's black and I like it," Sendejo said. "It's got a good message."
Although Sendejo said he has been wearing the hat for a while, its message "applies more now" because of an already controversial new rule installed by the league aimed at making the game safer.
The rule states that players can't lead or initiate contact with their helmets on tackles. During Thursday's Hall of Fame preseason game between the Ravens and Bears, the rule resulted in three penalty calls. Much debate has centered on the difficulty the rule presents for defensive backs, who may be forced into making split-second decisions or hesitations that could prove costly.
Asked what he thinks about the new rule, Sendejo replied, "I don't."
He later tweeted an image of him wearing a modified helmet "always leading with the facemask."
Vikings players met with NFL official Pete Morelli on Thursday night for a presentation on the updated rules. When asked how defenders respond to having to adjust to a new set of on-field policies, Sendejo said, "Poorly."
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who served on a committee to remedy illegal contact among receivers and defenders, said he spoke with his team Thursday about the reasoning behind the rule.
"Basically they don't want you to use the helmet as a weapon because the helmet, when it was first brought in to the league, was for protection and now if some of the crown of the helmet hits, it can be dangerous," Zimmer said. "So they're trying to eliminate that from the game to make the players more safe. I have no problem with that."
Sendejo was suspended one game during the 2017 season after his hit on Mike Wallace sent the Ravens wide receiver into the concussion protocol. The safety appealed the suspension against the rule which stated "there shall be no unnecessary roughness. This shall include, but will not be limited to: (i) using any part of a player's helmet or facemask to butt, spear, or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily."
Sendejo did not mince his disdain for how these new rules affect the way the game is played.
When asked whether the NFL is making football less violent, he replied, "Obviously."
As it pertains to the other takeaway from Morelli's presentation -- regarding how the type of tackle Anthony Barr had on Aaron Rodgers in Week 6 will be flagged with a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty this season -- Zimmer noted confusion over the explanation of a rule that has long been in place to protect the quarterback.
"That really has been the rule all along, so I don't understand where that's coming from," Zimmer said. "I actually told Pete ... You're never supposed to fall on the quarterback with your entire body weight. Now that he's out of the pocket, maybe it's changed a little bit this year. But the rule is you're never supposed to drive a quarterback into the ground. You're always supposed to hit and try to get your body weight off of him. To me, I don't know why they would come out and say that now. It doesn't make any sense to me."