Examining the Impact of the NFL’s Ban on Hip-Drop Tackles: A Closer Look at Officiating, Dan Campbell’s Lessons, and Aaron Donald’s Retirement

USA TODAY Sports’ NFL notebook takes a closer look at officiating on hip-drop tackles, Dan Campbell moving on and Aaron Donald calling it quits.

The NFL has banned the hip-drop tackle, and the players are angry

USA Today’s Safid Deen is at the NFL’s annual league meeting and discusses the controversial rule change banning the hip-drop tackle.

Sports Pulse

Don’t expect a downpour of yellow flags coming from the NFL’s ban on hip-drop tackles.

At least that’s the promise.

The new rule, crafted to halt a specific, dangerous technique – the tackler rotates his hips and drops his weight on the legs of the ball-carrier as he brings him to the turf from behind – is most likely to be enforced with fines issued during the week rather than with penalties during the game.

That’s pretty much how it’s worked out in enforcing the rule banning forcible contact with the helmet. In addition to the attention that comes with docking paychecks, the education that comes in reviewing infractions has been instrumental to the NFL’s efforts to take the head out of the game.

“That’s what we believe we’re doing here,” said Rich McKay, the head of league’s competition committee and Atlanta Falcons president.

Then again, it’s the NFL and officials. Even with the rule on the books, controversy could be fueled if officials don’t throw a flag in cases where it looks like a hip-drop violation has occurred. And it’s not as simple as getting help from instant replay, as the hip-drop penalty is not subject to review.

“They just have to make a judgment call when it’s 30 seconds left in the game with no timeouts and somebody is cutting on a crossing route and they’re trying to get out of bounds and a guy is trying to stop him,” Todd Bowles, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach, told USA TODAY Sports. “I don’t know what kind of tackle that’s going to be and what they’re going to have to do.”

Although the NFL Players Association vehemently opposes the rule, none of the coaches who gathered during league meetings in Orlando, Florida, this week disputed the purpose of the rule to enhance player safety. The proposal passed with a unanimous vote from owners. Yet how it’s called on game day looms as a key question.

“I think that’s the concern everyone has: Can we officiate it?” Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton said. “We’re already struggling to call certain fouls.”

Payton, who previously served on the coaches subcommittee for the competition committee, acknowledges that he’s “the biggest cynic” when it comes to officiating matters. Yet he agrees that the hip-drop rule needs to be in the books for player safety and expects that, like the helmet rule, the enforcement will largely be handled during the week from the league office after game reviews.

“So, it’s in the books and that makes sense to some degree,” Payton said. “The officiating part of it is difficult. The rule’s in place. They can fine players on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. I’ve said this to Troy (Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president for football operations) a number of times: We have to reduce the variables for the officiating. Whenever you add something to their plate…

“We’ve all seen the helmet (suspected as part of a potential violation) and we all need another clip or two to truly read it. Obviously, to see it live and make an accurate call is difficult. So, they err, ‘You guys will get that on Tuesday or Wednesday.’ If that happens with this suggestion, great. But if we start trying to, ‘Argh, was that?’ … We’ve just got to be careful.”

The NFL has maintained that the injury rate for hip-drop tackles is 20 to 25 times higher than for a normal tackle. McKay also pointed out that cases where the specific type of tackle that is now banned don’t happen very often.

“Once a week,” McKay said, “but that injury is substantial.”

Lions coach heeds lessons from heartbreak

Dan Campbell is energized by the challenge of a new season, but when his players come back for the offseason program there will still be unfinished business flowing from the meltdown in the NFC title game that cost the Detroit Lions a chance to earn the franchise’s first Super Bowl berth.

The Lions, who blew a 17-point halftime lead in falling to the San Francisco 49ers, will ultimately review the video from the collapse as a team. And no, that will be anything but a fun film session.

“You’ve got to swallow the pill,” Campbell said. “You’ve got to watch it together, which we will. That’s the one game that you don’t get to watch together. We’re going to watch that, digest the whole thing.”

Campbell said he’s reviewed some of the game – but not all of it – with his staff. That could not have been easy to stomach.

“We just watched the third quarter on and charted a little bit of everything and what went wrong, what scheme-wise, decision-wise, player-wise, how did these players in those moments step up,” Campbell said. “I’ll tell you what you realize when they really watch it, just general thoughts, San Francisco willed that to happen.”

Call it an opportunity for more growth. The hard way.

“I think we’ve got to put a tremendous amount of stress on our players before the season gets here, starting in OTAs, but certainly in training camp, a lot more than we have, and just mold them and shape them,” Campbell said. “But that experience, that will play well for us. You’ll either get better from that or you just get worse because you’re broken.”

Aaron Donald could wreck a draft board, too

That was some serious fortune for the Rams to land Aaron Donald with the 13th pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. Donald, who retired in mid-March, will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer after earning eight first-team All-Pro nods and Pro Bowl selections in each of his 10 NFL seasons.

Sure, the Rams expected great impact upon drafting Donald out of Pitt. GM Les Snead envisioned another cog in a monster pass rush by aligning Donald on a unit with defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn and defensive tackle Michael Brockers.

“We thought it was about too perfect of a fit for what we already had,” Snead reflected. “At that time, we were a young team trying to rebuild. Maybe another defensive tackle wasn’t an obvious need.”

Then Donald turned out to be way better than projected.

Snead knows. With 20/20 hindsight, the Rams would have drafted Donald higher – as in the second pick overall that they used to select Greg Robinson, a left tackle from Auburn.

Robinson wound up as a bust, lasting just three seasons with the Rams and six years in the league.

No, the Rams didn’t immediately fill their left tackle need in the 2014 draft. But they surely made up for it with their second first-round pick.

Quick slant

The New Orleans Saints will head west for training camp this summer, taking over the site the Rams used at the University of California-Irvine. But it’s not just a matter of getting out of the Louisiana heat. The Saints, who received an “F-minus” grade for food services on the most recent NFL Players Association report card, are constructing a new cafeteria at their headquarters in Metairie, Louisiana. The team is also upgrading its weight room. The guess is that a better grade is coming with next year’s NFLPA assessment.

2024-03-30 11:42:34
#NFL #banned #hipdrop #tackles #refs #call #penalties

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