“That’s Certainly My Hope” – NFL Safety Chief Aims To Dismantle Hip-Drop Tackles

The NFL is moving toward eliminating hip-drop tackles, the controversial tackling technique that led to injuries in 2023.

The NFL faced a new safety concern in 2023 when hip-drop tackles became the center of debate. Hip-drop tackles — in which a defender essentially swings his weight onto an offensive player’s legs while bringing them down — are considered controversial and led to injuries last season.

The league wants to ban hip-drop tackles in 2024 and is working to combat criticism from the NFL Players Union, which has voiced displeasure against rules that would outlaw hip-drops.

The NFL’s primary argument? Data that shows just how dangerous hip-drop tackles are.

NFL Moving Toward Hip-Drop Tackle Ban?

Speaking to reporters on Monday, NFL executive VP of health and safety Jeff Miller said the NFL will work to eliminate hip-drop tackles as part of its offseason rule change process.

“That’s certainly my hope,” Miller said, per Mark Maske of the Washington Post. “The tricky part is in the definition … We want to get those sorts of behaviors out of the game if we can.”

The injury rate on hip-drop tackles is 20 to 25 times greater than other tackles, Miller said, per Judy Battista of NFL.com.

Meanwhile, hip-drop tackles have only increased, with usage rates rising 50% from 2022 to 2023.

Miller said the NFL studied over 200,000 tackles as part of its research, specifically focusing on defenders pivoting and landing on their opponent’s legs.

It’s unclear when the league will finalize a hip-drop rule change. Miller said his team is in the “rough, rough, rough drafting stages” of the process.

Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews suffered the most significant hip-drop injury of the season in Week 12 after being taken down by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson.

Andrews cracked his fibula and injured his ankle ligament. He was placed on injured reserve and did not play again until the Ravens’ AFC Championship Game loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

However, some NFL players have been reticent to support a hip-drop tackle ban.

“I know especially my body gets twisted and turned, and I’m all over the place,” Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler said this month.”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 types of situations.

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

Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Calais Campbell, a 16-year NFL veteran, echoed Ekeler’s sentiments.

“A lot of rules that were put in place over the last 10-plus years that made the game a lot safer were big adjustments for players,” Campbell said. “I feel like this particular rule change, I don’t understand how you can police it the right way and allow us to do our job.”

Latest on Other NFL Rule Changes

Banning hip-drop tackles isn’t the only item on the NFL’s 2024 agenda. Here’s the latest on other potential rule changes the league will consider in the coming months:

  • Don’t expect an amendment to the NFL’s fumble-through-the-end-zone rule. There’s “not much traction at the movement” to alter the rule, which currently awards the ball to the defense as a touchback, per Battista.
  • The NFL wants kick returns to become a more significant part of the game. Last season, new rules that allowed for fair catches on kickoffs resulted in a 22% return rate.
  • Miller praised the XFL kickoff return model, in which players are placed five yards apart and cannot move until the kickoff is caught, noting a greatly reduced injury rate. However, Pro Football Talk reported earlier this month that an XFL kickoff rule is unlikely to generate the required votes from NFL owners.
  • While the league will discuss the Tush Push, Miller suggested the NFL is unlikely to halt the Philadelphia Eagles (or any team) from implementing their patented QB sneak. “In the push play, we don’t have a lot to share,” Miller said. “There just aren’t a lot of injuries.”

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