NFL owners vote to ban ‘hip-drop’ tackle technique

NFL owners have voted to ban the controversial “hip-drop” tackling technique, the league announced on Monday.

The league’s competition committee defines a hip-drop tackle as any tackle where a defender “grabs the runner with both hands or wraps the runner with both arms; and 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 use of the technique has been heavily scrutinised in recent months, after a series of high-profile lower-body injuries resulting from its use last season.

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New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson saw his 2023 campaign ended by a hip-drop tackle from Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu in Week 13.

Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews, meanwhile, missed seven games after the Cincinnati Bengals’ Logan Wilson used the technique against him in Week 11, fracturing his fibula.

Following Monday’s Annual Meeting, the league announced owners had signed off on the rule change, with hip-drop tackles now punishable by a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down if flagged during the game.

However, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent has suggested the regulation could be enforced in the same way as the “use of helmet” rule.

Players are typically issued with warnings or fines in the week after a game if caught using their helmets, rather than being penalised during games.

While Vincent believes banning hip-drop tackles will result in massively reduced injury rates, opposition to the rule change has been fierce.

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) released a statement opposing the change last week, saying banning the technique would serve only to confuse players, coaches, officials and fans.

In further changes approved by owners, teams will receive a third challenge following one successful challenge, while a major foul by the offense will be enforced before a change of possession in situations where both teams commit fouls.

Owners are yet to vote on the modified kickoff set-up proposed by the competition committee, though that change could still be put to the teams on Tuesday.

If the changes to kickoffs are adopted, new alignments would be brought in for both the kicking and receiving teams in a bid to cut down on high-speed collisions and increase return rates.

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