Gil Pound: Pound for Elvis tackling

Apr. 2—"Hit and squat! Hit and squat!"

I can still hear Chuck Sumner, my high school head football coach from junior and senior year, shouting those words at us on days we worked on live tackling and he wasn't happy with our technique, or lack thereof. For the uninitiated, live tackling is full-go. No stopping when pads meet. The only thing that ends the rep is a tackle to the ground or the ball carrier scoring.

Coach Sumner wanted feet driving, wrapped-up-arms scooping and taking the opponent down. He hated the "hit and squat," as he called it. Some guys at practice would make solid contact, but would then drop their weight to the ground in hopes of bringing the runner down rather than driving through the tackle. It was then — in between the profanity and squirts of nasal spray — that we would be hit with coach's famous refrain.

Were he alive today, I think coach Sumner would be one of the few fans of the NFL's new rule penalizing what the league has dubbed the "hip-drop tackle."

As described on the NFL Football Operations website: "A hip-drop tackle occurs when a defender wraps up a ball carrier and rotates or swivels his hips, unweighting himself and dropping onto the ball carrier's legs during the tackle." Offending teams/players will be assessed a 15-yard penalty, and the offense is awarded an automatic first down no matter what down and distance it faced on the play where the infraction occurred.

Where the league's ban on targeting is supposed to minimize instances of severe head or neck injuries, the hip-drop flag is trying to cut down on lower-body injuries sustained by ball carriers. Unlike targeting though, hip-drop penalties are not subject to review, meaning it is up to referees' real-time judgment.

I urge anyone interested to go online and look at the league's own video showing real plays where hip-drop flags would have been thrown had the penalty been on the books in recent years. The examples look like what one would expect to happen to them on a football field. The NFL says it analyzed more than 20,000 tackles over the past two seasons though and determined that the hip-drop technique causes lower extremity injuries at a rate 20 times higher than other tackles, "resulting in an unacceptable risk to player health and safety."

Perhaps the National Football League is trying to protect its players, but what I see is the offense yet again being given a helping hand versus the defense. It's like a few years ago when the league tightened down on roughing the passer, saying defenders weren't supposed to land with all their weight on the quarterback when taking him down. I suppose a bedtime story and nice tuck-in would suit better.

Back when the laying on the QB rule became a hot-button issue, I wrote my own version of the old country song "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" performed by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson (written by Ed Bruce). It went like this: "Mamas don't let your babies grow up to play defense/Don't let 'em rough passers or drive them hard to the ground/ (You should) let 'em throw footballs or run them around/Mamas don't let your babies grow up to play defense/'Cause they'll always be nagged and keep getting flagged/Until someone finally says, 'Enough.'"

Time for the second chorus.

"Mamas don't let your babies grow up to play defense/Don't let 'em drop hips or swivel them around/Let 'em throw footballs or block to the ground/Mamas don't let your babies grow up to play defense/'Cause they'll always be nagged and keep getting flagged/No matter how the job is done."

Doubt Nashville will be calling me any time soon, but you get the point.