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NFL Competition Committee to Propose Ban on Hip-Drop Tackle



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INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL competition committee is formulating a rule proposal to ban the hip-drop tackle, NFL executive Troy Vincent said to the USA Today on Thursday.

The tackle technique, which has been noted as a significant cause of injury in recent years, has had a rate of injury 20 times higher than traditional tackles, the NFL claims.

A hip-drop tackle occurs when a defender is engaged with a tackle by wrapping him with his arms, and then rotates his hips away from the ballcarrier and lets his body weight hang down on the opponent.

“What’s happening on the hip-drop is the defender is encircling tackling the runner and then swinging their weight and falling on the side of their leg, which is their ankle or their knee,” Falcons CEO Rich McKay, the chairman of the NFL competition committee, said last fall.

“When they use that tactic, you can see why they do, because it can be a smaller man against a bigger man and they’re trying to get that person down because that’s the object of the game. But when they do it, the runner becomes defenseless. They can’t kick their way out from under. And that’s the problem. That’s where the injury occurs. You see the ankle get trapped underneath the weight of the defender.”

High ankle sprains are the most common injuries from hip-drop tackles, though more severe injuries have occurred, including a broken leg by Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard.

It’s not clear what the officiating standard would be and if hip-drop tackles would be penalized by on-field flags or post-match fines. The committee will convene again at its full meeting next week in order to have a final proposal to be voted on at the 2024 NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando in March. The measure would need to be approved by three-quarters of the NFL owners.

The NFLPA, generally a proponent of player-safety measures, has been consistently against the banning of hip-drop tackles.

“This is so stupid,” Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward said in 2023. “How the heck are we ever going to get guys on the ground. They thinking too much.”

“They’re making it hard for us,” Steelers linebacker Kwon 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?”