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Is the Hip-Drop Tackle Penalty the End of Tackle Football?

The league owners unanimously voted to ban hip-drop tackles after a midseason debate sparked by Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews ankle injury—the latest and most visible example of the dangerous technique.

Andrews suffered ligament damage to his right ankle when Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson tackled him by wrapping himself around Andrew's waist and dropping his body weight on his legs during a "Thursday Night Football" matchup. Beginning next season if a player is flagged for a hip-drop tackle, his team will get hit with a 15-yard penalty and the opponent will get an automatic first down.

Any whip pan across social media suggests that most people inside, and outside, of Pro Football agree that banning the hip-drop tackle will inevitably lead to the ruin of the game; a hastening of the eventual NFFL; the National Flag Football League.

But, I suspect, it will probably be much ado about nothing. I wonder: Can a red-blooded American simultaneously clutch pearls and decry the sanitizing of the sport of its oldest allure? That being violence.

For the record, dropping your weight on an opponent's legs is extremely dangerous and attempts to legislate it out of football for the sake of player safety is admirable. But if the NFL really gave a damn about safety they would never ask their players to play on Thursdays—before their bodies have recovered from the previous Sunday, they would never ask them to play more games in a season, and they would never make them play on artificial surfaces.

In other words, the NFL, per usual, seem to want to have their cake and eat it too.

A more cynical person might suggest that owners passed the new rule in the hopes that it will boost scoring, which was down in 2022,and in 2023. Whenever defense starts to gain an advantage the league typically has manipulated the framework of the rule book to maximize scoring. Touchdowns sell tickets, and advertisements, and broadcast rights. . .

If you think the new rules changes are tantamount to the abolition of the sport, then I've got a bridge in Baltimore to sell you. No, the hip-drop rule will not be the end of tackle football. It will simply be another rule for the overtaxed officials to somehow litigate in real time and periodically get wrong at the margins of the game. It will be another flag for Patrick Mahomes to lobby the refs for whenever his teammate is tackled short of the line-to-gain. It will become another judgement call that seems to always go against the Chargers.

Last season taught us that the officials can't be trusted to get a black and white call like hitting the quarterback out of bounds correct. Mahomes drew this flag (above) for being hit inbounds against Green Bay. Justin Herbert did not despite being hit two yards on the chalk.

Forgive us for being dubious of refs getting a proper-tackling-technique penalty right.

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