NFL owners approve ban of swivel hip-drop tackle

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NFL owners have approved a rule proposal to ban the swivel hip-drop tackle, the league announced Monday.

The violation will result in a 15-yard penalty if flagged in games, but Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, strongly implied last week that it is likely to be enforced similarly to the “use of helmet” rule, which typically leads to warning letters and fines in the week after a game rather than flags during play.

The proposal was written to address only a subset of the rugby tackling style that has spread around the NFL in recent years, competition committee chairman Rich McKay said last week.

The tackling technique often results in lower-body injuries. The rule requires officials to note two actions: If a defender “grabs the runner with both hands or wraps the runner with both arms” and also “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.”

On Monday, McKay clarified that Monday’s rule change doesn’t eliminate the hip-drop tackle — only the “swivel technique that doesn’t get used very often.”

“When it is used, it is incredibly injurious to the runner — the runner is purely defenseless. I’ve heard defenders say before and I hear them — ‘Hey, you’re putting me in a really tough spot, you’re saying I can’t hit here and what do I do?’ My response has as always been, ‘Well, you can’t do that.’ That’s just because the guy you’re hitting is defenseless, has no way to protect himself,” McKay said, according to

“So, we’ve got to protect him. You’ve got to come up with other ways and you know what, they do. Yes, we outlawed the hip-drop, but what you may think are the drag-from-behind where he falls on the — that’s still a tackle. This is only that tackle where the player is lifting themselves in the air and then falling on the legs.”

NFL executive vice president Jeff Miller said there were 230 instances of the tackling technique occurring during a game last season with 15 players missing time as a result.

The NFL Players Association joined many current and former players in objecting to the proposal last week. In a statement posted to social media, the NFLPA said the rule would cause confusion among players, coaches, officials and fans.

On Monday, former player J.J. Watt was among those expressing displeasure with the owners’ vote on the tackling technique, posting to X, “Just fast forward to the belts with flags on them…”

Current players also weighed in on X, including the Detroit Lions’ DJ Reader, Philadelphia Eagles’ Darius Slay and the Miami Dolphins’ Jevon Holland:

In addition, two other proposals were approved:

  • Teams will receive a third challenge following one successful challenge. Previously, teams had to be successful on two challenges to receive a third. The proposal was submitted by the Detroit Lions.

  • A major foul by the offense will be enforced before a change of possession in situations where there are fouls by both teams.

McKay said Monday that owners did not vote on the proposal to modify the kickoff, however a vote could still take place on Tuesday.

The competition committee’s proposal would move the majority of the kicking and return teams downfield to minimize high-speed collisions.

The kicker would continue to kick from the 35-yard line, but the other 10 players would line up at the receiving team’s 40-yard line. At least nine members of the return team would line up in a “setup zone” between the 35- and 30-yard line. Up to two returners can line up in a “landing zone” between the goal line and the 20-yard line. No one other than the kicker and returner(s) can move until the ball hits the ground or a player inside the landing zone. Touchbacks would be marked at the 30-yard line, and no fair catches would be allowed.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.

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