Despite the amount of work the NFL claims to put in to make the game of football safer, and in many ways, their efforts have done just that, some aspects still fly under the radar even though they continue to injure players every season.
One of the more prominent moves under the spotlight this week is the hip-drop tackle, mainly because it injured Rhamondre Stevenson in Week 13 and potentially ended his season early. The running back was taken down via hip-drop tackle on Sunday, resulting in an ankle injury, and it is now being reported that the NFL is looking into banning the move in future seasons.
It's a topic former Patriots quarterback Cam Newton discussed this week on his "4th and 1" YouTube series, where he revealed his passionate stance on the league doing away with the tackle. Within that, he also broke down how it's essentially a lazy way of getting the job done and puts a lot of that responsibility on the coaches who don't teach the proper way of tackling anymore.
"We’re not teaching the art of tackling anymore, where head up, run through your feet and get him down. The hip-drop is they tackle and then they just sit down. Like, you can get your legs caught up under that sit and that’s where the hip injuries, the leg injures, all these injuries happen. There’s certain parameters where you can avoid, but that situation right there, we’re talking about player safety."
As a player who dealt with his fair share of injuries, but more commonly hard and illegal hits, Newton's opinion on player safety should be taken more seriously than those who have never played the game in the NFL. It's somewhat of a shocking realization that a tackle known for injuring players is still allowed, considering the countless other moves the league has banned that have been far more debatable.
Newton furthered his stance by shutting down those who believe it's just a part of the game, something even two of Stevenson's teammates had to say after last Sunday's game, pointing out certain things may be legal, but it doesn't make it okay use them if it will likely harm your opponent, no matter what sport you're playing.
"And then people are going to say, ‘It’s football. We need to keep football football. Don’t play football then.' But that’s still not to say we can’t keep it safe. Like, you can’t hit the dude in the back of the head even though ya’ll say ya’ll boxing. You have safety measures to keep players safe. And as a fan and just observant of this sport, it’s disgusting."
Although some will disagree, he's not wrong.
There are plenty of moves that have been banned in football that players and fans take issue with, but because protecting the players as much as possible is the ultimate goal, sometimes rules need to be changed to ensure safety is a priority every week. And the hip-drop tackle should be at the top of the list of considerations to be banned this offseason.
Why? Because it's not just Stevenson that has been injured from this move. Others have been in the past, and more will likely continue to be in the future. It's not making the game softer or more difficult for defenders when there are other ways to control your body when trying to tackle.
As Newton said, there are ways to avoid taking a player down the way the defender did in this instance on Stevenson, and more coaching of technique will make it easier to prevent this in the future.