Taking on another person is not easy. A good little league coach teaches a step-by-step approach of facemask, chest-to-chest contact, wrapping, grabbing cloth and driving. However, a lively ball carrier does not stand still. In order to take on fully equipped ball carriers who sprint, slide, spin and shake, coaches usually instruct players to do their best to get their pad level low, wrap around and go outside. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to add one more caveat: No sliding allowed. If a player falls off an opposing player’s body and still makes the play on a lower part, it is known as the infamous “hip-drop tackle”.
During Goodell’s Wednesday press conference at the league ownership meetings, he addressed what is considered dangerous play. Judging by his own words, NFL defenders will need to be ready to let ball carriers go in a split second in 2024.
“We all have to work to get that out of the game,” Goodell said during a press conference. “You see it has increased in the number of times it has occurred this season. The injury can be very devastating. We’ve seen it too. It’s not just happening at the NFL level. This happens on other levels as well. [It’s] something that I feel we have to work very hard to get it removed this spring.”
For the commissioner to air that strong opinion during league ownership meetings, defensive position coaches better start putting together drills for minicamp that will get players ready for the change. Also, AJ Brown is on pace to lead the NFL in yards after contact because no poor cornerback is going to be able to bring him down without sliding.
When the NFL banned the horse collar suit in 2005, it was done amid huge protests. The job of a defender is to get the offensive player to the ground. If that requires yanking a player from behind the shoulder pads, then so be it.
It’s been 18 years since that rule was enacted, and these days a fight is starting over a blatant horse collar tapper. The NFL claims to have data showing that injuries are 25 times more likely when a player is taken down by a hip-drop tackle.
Society may be less picky about soccer in 2023 than it was in 2005, but this potential rule change feels extreme. This will leave defenders with no room for error when attempting one of the most essential acts of the sport – tackling. Without that aspect of the game, football would not be entertaining enough to dominate the television ratings as it currently is.
That said, the more healthy stars on the field come playoff time, the better for viewers, investors and participants. Moreover, these athletes are professionals. They are often asked to perform amazing feats with their bodies and are well paid for their work.
For all the different opinions on the hip drop, there is only one case – Goodell’s. He made it very clear that he wanted to get rid of the play. Next season, defensive players will most likely have to learn how to slide off tackles if they lose their grip, or slide right into a 15-yard penalty.