Players object after NFL owners approve ban on swivel hip-drop tackling technique

Rows of football balls in NFL Experience in Times Square^ New York
Rows of football balls in NFL Experience in Times Square^ New York

The NFL announced on Monday during the league’s annual meeting in Orlando, FL, NFL owners approved a rule proposal to ban the swivel hip-drop tackle. The NFL competition committee proposed the measure, along with adopting three proposals. NFL executive vice president Jeff Miller said there were 230 instances of the tackling technique occurring during a game last season, with 15 players missing time as a result.

Competition committee chairman Rich McKay said last week that the proposal was written to address only a subset of the rugby tackling style that has spread around the NFL in recent years; however, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent implied last week that it is likely to be enforced similarly to the “use of helmet” rule, which typically leads to warning letters and fines in the week after a game rather than flags during play.

The new rule on the tackling technique, which often results in lower-body injuries, requires officials to note two actions — if a defender “grabs the runner with both hands or wraps the runner with both arms” and also “unweights himself by swiveling and dropping his hips and/or lower body, landing on and trapping the runner’s leg(s) at or below the knee.” The violation will result in a 15-yard penalty if flagged in games.

McKay clarified that the rule change doesn’t eliminate the hip-drop tackle — only the “swivel technique that doesn’t get used very often,” and added: “when it is used, it is incredibly injurious to the runner — the runner is purely defenseless. I’ve heard defenders say before and I hear them — ‘Hey, you’re putting me in a really tough spot, you’re saying I can’t hit here and what do I do?’ My response has as always been, ‘Well, you can’t do that.’ That’s just because the guy you’re hitting is defenseless, has no way to protect himself … So, we’ve got to protect him. You’ve got to come up with other ways and you know what, they do. Yes, we outlawed the hip-drop, but what you may think are the drag-from-behind where he falls on the — that’s still a tackle. This is only that tackle where the player is lifting themselves in the air and then falling on the legs.”

The NFL Players Association as well as many current and former players have objected to the proposal; in a statement posted to social media, the NFLPA said the rule would cause confusion among players, coaches, officials and fans.

The two other proposals approved were: (1) Teams will receive a third challenge following one successful challenge. Previously, teams had to be successful on two challenges to receive a third. The proposal was submitted by the Detroit Lions; and (2) a major foul by the offense will be enforced before a change of possession in situations where there are fouls by both teams.

Editorial credit: Alena Veasey /

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