Five days after a hip-drop tackle knocked Ravens tight end Mark Andrews out of the game and another came close to doing the same to quarterback Lamar Jackson, at least one member of the NFL’s competition committee is reportedly calling for a ban on the move now.
The hip-drop tackle is a technique used by defenders — oftentimes to bring down larger opponents — wherein they wrap their hands around the ball carrier and then drop their weight down. Typically, their weight falls on the runner’s legs, rendering them defenseless.
The NFL competition committee discussed banning the move at league meetings in October. Rich McKay, the chairman of the committee, called the hip-drop tackle the “cousin” of the already banned horse-collar tackle. However, league officials also admitted they are having trouble defining what is and isn’t a hip-drop tackle. They did not come to a conclusion on the ban but have started to gather data for a study.
Typically, the process for banning moves and changing rules is a lengthy one in which veteran players are consulted and proposals are tweaked before owners vote. It does not happen midseason. However, an anonymous source told USA Today that at least one member of the competition committee has proposed banning the hip-drop tackle immediately.
Changing the rulebook?
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has opinions, or as he put it, “a plan for that, if I was king for a day.” But since he’s not king of the NFL — or even one of the four coaches on the competition committee — he declined to share his opinion.
“No one cares,” he said about his opinion.
After Thursday’s game, when Andrews was injured, Harbaugh identified the tackle that brought him down as a hip-drop tackle and questioned if it was necessary. Beyond that, he’s leaving it up to the competition committee, where he said the issue is “in good hands.”
“The competition committee talks about those things, and if they decide to do something it would be for good reason,” Harbaugh said. “Whatever they decide to do, at whatever point in time, you just abide by it, and you say, ‘Hey, it’s what’s best.’ Then, in the offseason, I’m sure there will be a debate, and it will be voted on and all that.”
Prior to this week, the hip-drop tackle had already racked up a list of high-profile victims. It briefly knocked out Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith with a knee injury, led to a high ankle sprain for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and ended Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard’s season.
Andrews was injured on the first drive of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals. After the game, Harbaugh said Andrews was done for the season. However, the MRIs came back better than expected, and Andrews now has an “outside chance” of returning this season. NFL Network reported Andrews has a cracked fibula and left ankle ligament damage.
Later in the game, Jackson was tackled by the same player, Logan Wilson, using the same technique. He went into the injury tent and seemed to be treating his ankle gingerly, but he returned to the game.
Two days later, a prominent college player was hurt on a hip-drop tackle. During Florida State’s game against North Alabama on Saturday, Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis was taken down when a defender encircled his waist and dropped, landing on Travis’ leg and breaking it (the video is online, but beware that it is difficult to watch). Travis had to leave the stadium in an ambulance.
Despite the injuries, the answer is not so simple, based on the reactions from the Ravens locker room and NFL players around the league. While some of the offensive players have questioned the safety of the move, they also understand their defensive counterparts’ worry about yet another way to tackle being banned.
The move is particularly useful in stopping an offensive player from behind. If a trailing defender dives forward, he could push the runner forward, giving them yardage, a first-down or potentially (and in Andrews’ case, specifically) a touchdown.
While Ravens defensive players have protested a ban on the move, Harbaugh said it is not a technique that the Ravens teach their players. But according to safety Kyle Hamilton’s comments after Thursday’s game, it’s not something that happens because of a plan, a technique or malicious intent.
“The hip drop, I feel like you can’t necessarily [avoid it] because you don’t know exactly what’s gonna happen,” Hamilton said. “You’re trying to get them down by any means necessary. I mean, if it happens that way, it happens that way. I don’t think anybody means anything malicious by it.”
Safety Marcus Williams added to the conversation when he went on Kay Adams’ show.
“We can’t really be mad at the defender; he’s doing all he can to get him down,” Williams said. “I’m not sure he’s trying to hip drop or anything like that, no malicious intent to hurt the guy. He’s just trying to get him down. But I don’t see us being able to — if we can’t tackle them, at the end of the day, we might as well play flag if that’s the case. Because there’s no other way to bring these guys down.”
Despite the Ravens defenders’ feelings on the subject, Harbaugh could not recall them using the technique.
“I can’t remember one of our guys doing it,” Harbaugh said. “Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t remember seeing it from one of our guys.”