Chargers RB Austin Ekeler Makes Best Argument Yet Against Hip-Drop Tackle Ban

How can football still be football anymore if a common form of tackling is banned? That was Austin Ekeler's case against the NFL outlawing the hip-drop tackle.

LAS VEGAS — If there’s any player who would presumably be in favor of a potential NFL rule change banning the so-called hip-drop tackle, it’s Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler.

Ekeler plays the NFL’s most violent and disposal position — running back. He missed three games in 2023 with an ankle injury, which is a common outcome for players tackled by the hip-drop method.

And few players are in better position to enact change than Ekeler. He’s one of 10 NFLPA vice presidents and held in such high regard he was one of five current players asked to participate in the union’s annual Super Bowl media availability.

And yet, on Wednesday, Ekeler came out strongly against a rule change that would penalize — and potentially even fine — players who tackle using the hip-drop technique.

Austin Ekeler: Hip-Drop Tackle Ban Compromises Quality of Game

“I think it really compromises the quality of the game on multiple levels,” Ekeler said. O”ne is the officials. It puts another grey area involving the officials. Was that a [hip-drop]? Was it not? Was it a 15-yard penalty? And maybe it was/maybe it wasn’t. And the fines associated with that as well, that’s another thing that we’re trying to figure out, how to make that system better.”

“And then also just like even just going through some areas. Like you’re on the goal line and you’re trying to, you’re trying to pull someone back away from the goal line. … Whatever the case, now it’s considered a hip-drop tackle. Not allowed to have that action anymore.

“So there’s multiple levels that I think that it compromises the quality of play. To the fact where I’m like, are they really serious about this? Because this is a distraction because it just seems so ridiculous to me that this is something that they’re really putting on the table.

“I know especially my body gets twisted and turned, and I’m all over the place, and it’s because you kind of lay out, you at full speed, both guys are going with a lot of energy. Your body is gonna end up in different types of places and different type of situations.

“I just think it’s, I think it’s honestly detrimental to the game that you try to move forward with it.”

For those who closely follow the NFLPA, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The union was against banning that style of tackle before the 2023 season, and that opinion hasn’t shifted.

For sure, some players would like to see the technique outlawed. But their numbers are not nearly big enough for the NFLPA to advocate on their behalf.

The hip-drop tackle is easier understood visually than verbally, but in essence, it’s a horse-collar tackle from the side instead of behind.

“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,” Rich McKay, the chairman of the NFL’s Competition Committee, said last year.

“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.”

The league wants to get the play out of the game. But if they vote to ban it, they’ll be doing so over the loud objections of many of the team’s best players.

MORE: Former Referee Gene Steratore Remarkably Candid on the Challenges of NFL Officiating

“How do you, how do you teach somebody to title differently? You know, there’s only so many ways you can tackle a guy,” pass rusher Calais Campbell, another member of the NFLPA Executive Committee, said Wednesday.

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