NFL bans controversial hip-drop tackle

NFL bans controversial hip-drop tackle

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

ORLANDO — The NFL banned the hip-drop tackle Monday, prohibiting a technique league leaders said is unusually hazardous to players.

Team owners, at the annual league meeting, voted unanimously to ratify the prohibition that had been proposed by the competition committee with input from NFL health and safety officials.

The rule defines a hip-drop tackle as occurring when a tackler grabs a ballcarrier with both hands or wraps the runner with both arms, swivels and “unweights” himself by leaving the ground, then falls on the back of the ballcarrier’s lower leg or legs. Such tackles will be subject to 15-yard penalties and potential fines.

“We’ve spent a lot of work on this tackle,” said Atlanta Falcons chief executive Rich McKay, the chairman of the competition committee. “We came last year close to saying maybe it was time to put a rule in. We wanted to see if the technique [would] continue. Do we have a problem? And the answer is yes. So that led to the rule. We worked hard on the language. We did use a good bit of the rugby language that they put in to outlaw this tackle.”

The members of the competition committee were unanimous in supporting the proposed ban ahead of Monday’s ratification vote by the owners. Committee members met here Sunday with Richie Gray, a rugby coach, about the hip-drop tackle being banned in certain rugby leagues.

The NFL’s ban takes effect next season. The league is enacting it over the objection of the NFL Players Association.

“I’ve heard defenders say before,” McKay said Monday, “and I hear them: ‘Hey, you’re putting me in a really tough spot. You’re saying I can’t hit here. What do I do?’ And my response has always been, ‘Well, you can’t do that.’ ”

League leaders said they respected the players’ opinion on the matter but they could not ignore an injury rate for the technique that is 20 to 25 times higher than that for standard tackles. Members of the league’s health and safety staff said they studied 20,000 tackles over recent seasons to make that determination.

“It’s increasing in frequency,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy. “The sorts of injuries … the high-ankle sprains, the ligament injuries, fractures — lead to substantial time lost.”

Miller said there were 230 hip-drop tackles leaguewide last season, using the definition that includes the “swivel” element. The frequency increased roughly 65 percent year over year, he said. Of those 230 tackles last season, 15 resulted in injuries in which the ballcarrier missed playing time, according to Miller.

The NFL thus was dealing with a tackling technique that was occurring nearly once per game and resulting in nearly one significant player injury per week, he said.

The technique resulted in high-profile injuries last season to Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill, among others.

The competition committee considered a ban last offseason following injuries suffered by running back Tony Pollard, then with the Dallas Cowboys, and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It took no action then but resumed the deliberations this offseason.

The ban could result in players being fined after games more often than penalized during them.

“We said in the report that this will be a hard one to call on the field,” McKay said. “You’re going to have to see all the elements of this because this is the swivel hip-drop tackle. It’s not every hip-drop tackle. This is the one where the player grabs and then unweights himself, swivels around and falls on the legs.”

The owners did not take an immediate vote Monday on the competition committee’s proposal for a “hybrid” kickoff model.

“It’s a complicated rule,” McKay said. “ … We have a pretty good feel for where the membership is, and there will definitely be a vote that we’re going to need to take at some point. … This is our chance to keep special teams in the game.”

The owners’ vote on the kickoff proposal could come during the final scheduled day of this meeting Tuesday. Or it could come during the next owners meeting, scheduled for May in Nashville. The measure must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 owners.

“I’m not sure it becomes a May issue,” McKay said. “I think [the vote] could be taken this week. … This is a major change. It looks new to people. And some people say, ‘Boy, it’s complicated.’ … There is a time element here, an explanation element.”

The proposal, if approved, would implement an XFL-style kickoff — with the kicker lined up in the traditional spot but the other players on the kicking team lined up down the field, five yards from the blockers on the receiving team — next season. The NFL is attempting to reduce the injury rate on kickoffs while increasing the portion of kickoffs that are returned.

“It’s just a different kind of football play,” Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “I just appreciate that we’re exploring every option. … Is that the right move at this time? I don’t know. I think that’s to be determined. But I’m confident that we’ll come to a good conclusion.”

Said Chiefs Coach Andy Reid: “It should be exciting and new. We’ll see what happens. I don’t know if it’s going to pass. But if it does, I think it adds a little excitement and newness to it, right? Is that a word? Newness?”

The competition committee is unanimous in its support of the kickoff proposal. It formally presented the proposal to owners Monday after committee members and special teams coaches briefed owners, general managers and head coaches on the details during an approximately four-hour meeting Sunday.

“The discussions that await us today aren’t necessarily about the play or the rules of the play,” said Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin, a member of the competition committee. “But it’s the ramifications, seeing around corners, the unintended consequences of some of the things.”

The owners approved a proposal by the Detroit Lions giving a team a third instant replay challenge during a game if it gets either of the first two correct (rather than both). They did not approve the Philadelphia Eagles’ proposal for a fourth-and-20 alternative to the onside kick. The Indianapolis Colts withdrew their proposal to allow any foul called by on-field officials to be reviewable by replay under the existing challenge system.

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