Ex-NFL Players Sound Off Against Ban on Controversial Tackle Method

Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL announced Monday that team owners had voted to outlaw a version of the “hip drop” tackle technique that caused a pair of high-profile injuries last season, saying the method—while incredibly effective in bringing a runner down—is 25 times more likely to cause injury than other tackles.

The method, in which defenders wrap a runner with both hands and then unweights them by swiveling and dropping their hips, will now be a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty in games next season. Fines and suspensions can also be assessed, depending on the severity of the tackle.

The tackle style was widely credited as the reason behind the injuries of the Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard and the star Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews, whose injury was watched by millions in a primetime game in November.

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Andrews spoke about the tackle this offseason, insisting he didn’t blame the Cincinnati Bengals’ Logan Wilson for using the method on him. He called it an “unfortunate event” that stemmed from Wilson “playing hard.”

The hit knocked Andrews, a key piece on a top AFC team, out for months—sparking debate on whether the NFL’s rules committee should act on the method in the offseason.

The NFL did just that on Monday, much to the dismay of countless pundits and former players. That included the linebacker-turned-analyst Emmanuel Acho, who sounded off in a rant to X that a “hip-drop tackle” is just a tackle, nothing more.

“There is no such thing as a hip drop tackle—only a tackle,” he said. “We created this name hip drop tackle to try to vilify something that’s just a tackle. The game of football has been in existence for roughly, what, 100 years? And all of a sudden there’s a hip-drop tackle. There’s no such thing. It’s literally literally just a tackle.”

The legendary NFL coach Tony Dungy agreed, saying he doesn’t even understand what a hip-drop tackle is.

“I’m all for player safety,” he clarified. “We need to make the game as safe as possible. And I must admit I don’t know what a ‘hip drop’ tackle is. Having played & coached defense I can tell you there is only one way to make a tackle from behind without dropping your weight—which could be worse.”

Current NFL players also shared their displeasure, including the Detroit LionsDJ Reader, Philadelphia EaglesDarius Slay, and the Miami DolphinsJevon Holland, all of which are defenders.

No notable NFL players immediately spoke publicly in support of the rule change, including Andrews and Pollard.

The new rule is sure to cause a headache for defenders, officials, and coaches come next season—something the National Football League Players Association said itself in a statement this week. The NFL has already been under fire in recent years for making sweeping rule changes in the name of player safety that have made the NFL materially different than it was just a decade ago.

JJ Watt, who retired as one of the best defensive ends in NFL history in 2022, joked Monday that, with the newest rule change, the NFL should begin a transition into being a flag-football league.

“Just fast forward to the belts with flags on them,” he posted to X.

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