NFL owners ban “hip-drop tackle” at annual league meetings

NFL still awaits vote on kickoff rule change

Chicago Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds brings down Green Bay Packers running back AJ Dillon during their game Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

NFL owners passed three rule changes Monday morning at the annual league meetings in Orlando. Most notable among the changes is a ban on the “hip-drop tackle,” which led to several notable injuries last season.

The owners did not yet vote on a proposed change to the kickoff rules, but a vote is expected this week, likely Tuesday.

A hip-drop tackle will now result in a 15-yard penalty. The tackle occurs when a defender wraps up a ball carrier with both hands, then drops his hips and allows his weight to carry both players to the ground. Often, the offensive player’s legs get caught underneath the defender in these situations. This type of tackle led to several notable injuries, including a season-ending injury for Ravens tight end Mark Andrews last season.

The penalty for such a tackle will be 15 yards and an automatic first down. It’s possible the league also could retroactively hand out fines, similar to how it polices defenders who lead with their helmet when tackling.

The NFL cited a higher injury rate on such tackles as the reasoning for banning the play. The NFL Players Association put out a statement against the rule last week, noting that the change would cause confusion. The league continuously has made rules adjustments to protect its offensive stars, particularly quarterbacks.

Numerous defensive players have been vocally opposed to the rule, including Bears safety Jaquan Brisker, who tweeted: “can we please not ruin this GREAT game.” New Bears safety Kevin Byard noted, “It’s so hard to play defense in the league.”

Two other rule changes passed Monday. One allows teams to earn a third challenge if one of their first two challenges is successful. Previously, teams needed to be successful on both of their first two challenges in order to earn a third. Additionally, a major foul called on the offense now will be enforced before a change of possession in situations when there are fouls on both teams.

The league still is awaiting a verdict on changing the kickoff rule. Under the proposed rule, the kicker would still kick off from his team’s 35-yard line, but most of the players would line up opposite the 50-yard line in an effort to eliminate full-speed collisions on kickoffs. The XFL used a similar kickoff rule in recent years.

The league saw a record low number of kicks returned and a record high percentage of touchbacks last season. The owners want to find a way to make the kickoff exciting without putting players at risk. Under the proposed rule, onside kicks would be allowed only in the fourth quarter, and the kicking team must declare an onside kick attempt.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.