NFL not shifting to ban controversial hip-drop tackles but. Here is why.
As usual, NFL owners will be greeted by a variety of rule proposals as they gather in Phoenix on Sunday for their annual league meetings.
There is one, courtesy of the Los Angeles Chargers, to change the playoff seeding formula. Remember, the Bolts had to take to the streets in their wildcard playoff loss in Jacksonville despite having a much better record than division champion Jaguars.
Another effort is on the agenda to expand instant play, which was proposed by the Los Angeles Rams to allow roughing-the-passer as a verifiable play. Remember that years ago Bill Belichick suggested that all pieces should be re-tested.
There are also suggestions for putting the ball on the 25-yard line after touchbacks on punts and with a “fair catch” on a kickoff return.
But one thing isn’t on the agenda next week: banning hip drop tackle.
It is earmarked for further review.
Since Super Bowl 57, the NFL’s competition committee has had extensive discussions about potentially drafting a rule that would eliminate the type of drag-down tackle from behind, similar to the now-illegal horse-collar tackle, which appears to be a growing threat has become.
Interestingly, this potential safety initiative has no support from the leadership of the NFL Players Association, which released a statement in early March opposing a ban on the technology, calling it “unfair to players and unrealistic to implement.”
Hmmm. If the NFL were able to create a rule to determine what constituted a catch (hey, Dez Bryant), you would think they should be able to enact it.
“I think the challenge we have is how do you define it?” Rich McKay, the Atlanta Falcons president and chairman of the competitions committee, said during a news conference Friday. “What is the prevalence? And how do you get it out of the game? There is a process for that. We will go through that.”
In other words, it’s not up for a vote right now… but stay tuned.
Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said during the conference that the tackling technique was so prevalent last season that it resulted in an injury rate he said was “20 times higher” than shapes in other tackling methods.
Though the league didn’t provide numbers to accurately quantify how many hip-drop tackle injuries have occurred, it’s obvious that it’s another goal in the name of health and safety.
The technique’s poster image is from the NFC Divisional Playoff game in San Francisco, when the Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard came out of the game with a broken leg and high ankle sprain that occurred on a hip drop tackle was thrown.
That same weekend, Kansas City Chiefs MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffered a severe ankle sprain when he was pulled down by a Jaguars defenseman whose weight landed on the back of his leg.
Vincent eerily compared the hip drop tackle to the horse collar technique, which was banned in 2005.
“It’s literally the same mechanic,” said Vincent, who played 15 seasons as an NFL defenseman. “It’s just that now the player is (tied) at the waist and (the defender) is really tripping over the runner’s legs. You see it tearing ankles and knees. It could break a leg.”
McKay would not set a timeline for proposing a ban. It is possible that it will be on the agenda for the spring sessions in May. In the meantime, the league deepens its research and compiles video examples. Next week input from conversations with head coaches – including former NFL players Mike Vrabel (Titans), Doug Pederson (Jaguars), Frank Reich (Panthers), DeMeco Ryans (Texans), Ron Rivera (Commanders), Dan Campbell (Lions) and Todd Bowles (Buccaneers) – could be crucial in assessing the direction of a potential ban.
Perhaps a solution will come without making a rule if the technique is effectively coached from the game. On the other hand, such a gray area could also fuel even more controversy.
The players’ union rejection is significant amid critics who may scoff at the potential of a hip-drop ban as another step towards flag football. In the NFLPA’s statement, issued during its annual meeting of players’ representatives, the union argued that defensive players were split-second handicapped by indecisiveness. The NFLPA also alleges that such a rule would be a burden on officers and result in inconsistent calls.
Former All-Pro cornerback and NFLPA board member Richard Sherman expressed the feelings of defensive players in a recent post on Twitter.
“There isn’t a player who says, ‘Hey, I’m about to drop my weight on his ankle when I attack him,'” Sherman tweeted. “Defending is hard enough with the rules about roughing the QB and meddling. That would be exaggerated.”
McKay sounds undeterred.
“We’re on it and we understand there’s injury data that says we should look at that,” McKay said. “So, that’s us.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.