NFL owners vote to ban controversial hip-drop tackle at annual meetings

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America/TNS

ORLANDO, Fla. – NFL officials will have something extra to police next season.

On Monday morning, NFL owners voted to ban the hip-drop tackle during the annual league meetings.

The definition of a hip-drop tackle reads as follows:

The penalty for a hip-drop tackle is 15 yards and an automatic first down.

“The greatest asset for any athlete is durability and availability, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said last week during a conference call. “When you have a play that has a 20-25% injury rate, it doesn’t allow you to fulfill your dreams.”

NFL executive vice president Jeff Miller said the league found 230 instances from last season, up 65% from 2022.

Last week, the NFL Players Association, along with current and former players, opposed the banning of the hip-drop tackle. In a statement, the NFLPA said the rule would create confusion among players, coaches, officials, and even fans.

Vincent played 16 seasons in the NFL, so I totally respect his option. But I agree with the NFLPA because banning the drop-hip tackle will make NFL officials’ jobs that much more difficult.

Officials already have enough to worry about from play to play. Now, this is something else that will be subjective to many officials each week.

The hip-drop tackle became more of a conversation around the league last season when Ravens tight end Mark Andrews cracked his fibula and suffered ankle ligament damage in a game against the Bengals last November. Linebacker Logan Wilson used a hip-drop tackle against Andrews to bring the three-time Pro Bowler down.

Andrews didn’t play another game until the Ravens 17-10 AFC Championship loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

Not only will officials need to adapt to the new rule change, but so will many defensive players who already have a tough enough job. Defenders already can’t hit the quarterback below the knees; they can’t bring a ball carrier down using the horsecollar technique, and now they have to be aware of how they’re tackling not just quarterbacks but offensive players in general.

In 2018, Dolphins defensive end William Hayes tore his ACL when trying to avoid putting his body weight on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. The NFL outlawed defenders landing all or most of their weight on quarterbacks.

Hayes never played another game in the NFL and eventually retired after the injury. In a league that already caters to the offense, this rule will likely only hurt defensive players and their aggressiveness moving forward.