ORLANDO, Fla. — Three hours after John Harbaugh shared his opinion on the hip-drop tackle, a technique that knocked out tight end Mark Andrews for nine weeks, the NFL officially banned it.

If a player uses a hip-drop tackle to bring a runner down, they will now be penalized 15 yards, and the offense will be awarded an automatic first down. The vote, which requires the approval of 75% of the owners, was unanimous despite objections from the NFL Players Association.

“Listen, it’s a play that has a 20 times injury factor,” commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday. “From that standpoint, we can’t allow it. We’ve been very, I think, effective and very clear when we see a technique that we think is going to increase the safety of our players, particularly at that kind of rate. I’m not sure that we’ve had anything at that kind of rate. We’re going to work to try to remove it from the game.”

The NFL had discussed banning the hip-drop tackle in October 2023 but failed to pass the measure and instead started to gather data for a study.

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In Week 11, a month after the meeting, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson used the move — in which a defender encircles his opponent and then drops his weight down to bring him to the ground — against Andrews.

Andrews reportedly suffered severe ankle and leg injuries and was out for the remainder of the regular season.

That was one of several plays that reignited the national debate on the tackle, and when the same tackle caused Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis to suffer a gruesome leg injury two days later, more fuel was added to the fire.

At least one member of the NFL’s competition committee called for an immediate ban, an anonymous source told USA Today.

Following the Bengals game, Harbaugh questioned the necessity of the tackle that injured Andrews and came close to injuring quarterback Lamar Jackson. However, when asked about a ban days later, Harbaugh refused to take a stance, saying “no one cares” about his opinion and that it was in the “good hands” of the competition committee, who would make the decision in the offseason.

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Harbaugh was much more outspoken about the topic on Monday at the NFL’s owners’ meeting, where the owners voted on the ban and other proposed rule changes.

“I’m not a politician, I don’t know, but I’m for it,” Harbaugh said about a ban. “I think taking the hip-drop out of the game is the right thing to do. [Commissioner] Roger [Goodell] and [Executive Vice President of Football Operations] Troy [Vincent] are on the right path with that. The competition committee is on the right path with that. It would be good. That’s my opinion.”

His own players were less shy about sharing their opinions following Andrews’ injury. While some, like fullback Patrick Ricard, had “questions” about whether hip-drop tackles should be allowed, many players, especially those on the defense, were vehemently opposed to a ban.

“I mean, at the end of the day, we play football,” Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Queen said at the time. “And I hate that Mark’s hurt. Prayers for him. But, at the end of the day, we play football, we play a tackling sport. I don’t think a hip-drop tackle is that bad of a thing. How else do you want us to tackle them?”

All-Pro safety Kyle Hamilton added: “Targeting, it’s kind of understandable. The hip-drop, I feel like you can’t necessarily [avoid it] because you don’t know exactly what’s gonna happen. ... 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.”

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Andrews was able to rehab for the playoffs, though the Ravens did not activate him for their divisional-round playoff game against the Houston Texans. He did play in the AFC championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs and had two catches for 15 yards. He later said he did not have any thoughts on the tackle.

“It was kind of just an unfortunate event,” Andrews said at locker clean out in January. “I’m going to let everybody else do their thing. If they want to ban the tackle, [that’s] fine, but I’m going to go out there and play hard no matter what. I don’t blame the guy. He’s just playing ball.”

The NFL Players Association took a strong stance against a ban, releasing a statement shortly after the competition committee’s official rule change proposal was made public.

“The players oppose any attempt by the NFL to implement a rule prohibiting a ‘swivel hip-drop’ tackle,” the NFLPA said. “While the NFLPA remains committed to improvements to our game with health and safety in mind, we cannot support a rule change that causes confusion for us as players, for coaches, for officials and especially, for fans. We call on the NFL, again, to reconsider implementing this rule.”

Goodell said they had a meeting with the NFLPA and the Competition Committee in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine. They went through video footage of hip-drop tackles and had their engineers answering the NFLPA’s questions. However, the NFLPA released this statement nearly a month after the Combine.

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One of the concerns detractors of the ban have is the uncertainty around the definition of the move. McKay said officials have to see three elements before they can call it and that they can’t practice calling it because the hip-drop tackle isn’t used in practices. Goodell admitted there would be a transition for officials but that the weight wouldn’t be carried entirely by them.

“When we had the lowering of the head in the head-to-head contact, there is a transition period,” Goodell said. “So we’re going to make sure that the officials are comfortable when they see something clear and obvious they throw the flag. Otherwise, we (will see it) on the video tape. We will see it on tape on Monday and we will deal with it with fines and discipline.”

In the newly passed rule, the move is described as when a defender:

(a) grabs the runner with both hands or wraps the runner with both arms; and

“(b) 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.”

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Players quickly took to social media to protest the news.

“2 hand touch [gonna] be next lmao,” Queen posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Breaking news: Tackling Banned,” Miami Dolphins safety Jevon Holland posted.

“While we are at it ‘making the game contactless’ how about banning TEs coming cross the ball and Diving at DE’s Knees ? That can’t be safe right?” Buffalo Bills defensive lineman DaQuan Jones posted.

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