The NFL is ever evolving, and that’s reflected by the rule changes they make each offseason. While most are for the better, such as last year when they adjusted the injured reserve protocols or increased the practice squad limits.
But for each rule change that comes off as common sense, we get one or two proposals that are prisoner of the moment changes to appease a dramatic result from the season prior.
For example, the NFL added a rule last offseason that each team is guaranteed one possession in overtime, on the heels of the Buffalo Bills losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in a thriller.
The NFL has gone from favoring the offensive side of the ball to catering to them. Some of the roughing the passer penalties we see weekly are laughable. The NFL has to clean up a lot in the penalty department, and adding more to the refs plate with the numerous changes only makes the results worse.
Allen Sills, the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer, said there may be some conversations this offseason about banning the “hip drop” tackling technique.
This is no coincidence, as Cowboys running back Tony Pollard suffered a broken ankle after 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward tackled him:
Replay of Jimmie Ward tackle on Tony Pollard#DallasCowboys 6 #49ers 6 2ɴᴅ pic.twitter.com/MnoYR8mtIP— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) January 23, 2023
In an interview with The Washington Post, Sills explained how the tackle Ward used resembles rugby, where it’s banned:
“The techniques used on those tackles, in which the defender grabs the ball carrier from behind and then pulls him down while dropping the tackler’s own body to the ground, could be eliminated. That type of tackle, known in rugby as a ‘hip-drop tackle,’ was banned by the National Rugby League in Australia because of the injuries it caused.”
In Ward’s case, he was playing catch up and made a routine tackle. So if you can’t tackle the running back in that way or grab his shoulder pads in fear of getting flagged for a horse collar penalty, are you limited to diving for the ball carrier's ankles?
Here are some of the player reactions from over the weekend:
NFL players reaction... not loving it to say the least. pic.twitter.com/XecXQ54jM2— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 4, 2023
The National Rugby League has a Reddit thread that further explained the hip drop tackle:
The hip drop tackle technique involves a defender holding onto the hips or upper body of the ball carrier and lifting their own legs off the ground, dropping their body weight onto the ball carrier’s legs or feet. This technique often causes the ball carrier’s legs to become trapped under the defender’s body twisting the ankle or knee joint as they fall to the ground.
In Sills mind, the problem with the hip drop tackling style is that the risk of injury is extremely high, even if the defender doesn’t have any intention of hurting the ball carrier. But when the face of the NFL suffers an injury, changes will be made:
Patrick Mahomes went down with an apparent ankle injury on this play late in the first quarter, but stayed in the game.— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) January 21, 2023
He is now headed to the locker room.pic.twitter.com/B5lMkKNKF3
The NFL is trying to make the game safer. But, based on recent history, the league rarely looks out for the defensive side of the ball.