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Mike Tomlin Gives Qualified Support for Hip-Drop Tackle Ban



Steelers HC Mike Tomlin

ORLANDO Fla. — Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who is a member of the NFL Competition Committee, touched on the hip-drop tackle proposal during an interview with a select group of Pittsburgh reporters on Sunday at the NFL owner’s meetings.

The proposed ban of the controversial hip-drop tackle will be on tap at the meeting over the next three days. The tackling tactic caused a slew of injuries across the league last season.

The proposal needs approval from 24 owners to pass.

“I think any of us that look at some of the examples of the injuries associated with the tactic want that out of the game,” Tomlin said. “The question and the debate and the discussion is around how do you go about doing it? And beyond that, how it’s officiated? And those are the two key components that we are discussing here. That’s to be determined. What is some language that empowers us to address the issue and how do we carry that out from an officiating or New York perspective in terms of dealing with violators?”

The NFL Players Association opposes the proposed ban.

“While the NFLPA remains committed to improvements to our game with health and safety in mind, we cannot support a rule change that causes confusion for us as players, for coaches, for officials and especially, for fans,” the union wrote in a statement last week.

Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said in response to the NFLPA: “I have a technique that causes 20 to 25-percent injury rate when it occurs. I respect their position, but as gatekeepers of the game . . . this is something that we have to remove.”

According to competition committee chairman Rich McKay, the proposed rule was written to address only a subset of the rugby tackling style that has spread around the NFL in recent years. It calls for a 15-yard penalty if a defender grabs the runner with both hands or wraps the runner with both arms and unweights himself by swiveling and dropping his hips and/or lower body, landing on and trapping the runner’s leg[s] at or below the knee.”

The league studied about 20,000 tackles in recent seasons and determined the injury rate on hip-drop tackles to be 20 to 25 times higher than on standard tackles, according to the Washington Post.

Former Steelers inside linebacker Kwon Alexander ridiculed the possibility of the hip-drop tackle being banned in an interview with Alan Saunders of Steelers Now last October.

“They’re making it hard for us,” Alexander said. “I don’t really know what the game is coming to, for real. I don’t know how to stop from tackling someone around the waist. … I give it about three or four years, and I think they’re going to go to flag. How else are you going to tackle?”

The hip-drop is banned in Australian Rules Football, but the Aussie game has significant differences from American Football — most significantly no helmets or shoulder pads.

Alexander says that NFL players sign up for the game understanding the injury risks, and while no one wants a sprained ankle, the hip-drop is a better tackle than some of the alternatives.

Unlike contact with the head, a face mask or horse collar, it will also be extremely subjective.

“You can get hurt at any time doing this,” he said. “Trying to stop somebody from making a tackle like that, it’s going to be hard. … I don’t even know a technique to make that tackle (another way). If it happens, it happens. You could be at any angle trying to tackle somebody — you can’t go high. Where are you going to be able to go?

“I just hope they don’t fine anybody for that stuff. We’ve got families to feed,” he said. “They’ve got to slow that down.”

Alan Saunders contributed reporting from Orlando.