NEW YORK (AP) - The NFL is looking to eliminate the hip-drop tackle and will again discuss the "tush push" in the offseason.
League executive Jeff Miller said Tuesday the hip-drop tackle increases risk of injury by 25 times the rate of a standard tackle.
Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith briefly left a game against the Giants in Week 4 after getting hurt by a hip-drop tackle.
"It is an unforgiving behavior and one that we need to try to define and get out of the game," Miller said at the league meetings. "To quantify it for you, we see an injury more or less every week in the regular season on the hip-drop."
The league made the horse-collar tackle illegal several years ago because a defender’s body weight ends up on the legs of the ball carrier, enhancing risk of injury. Rich McKay, the chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, called the hip-drop tackle a "cousin" of the horse collar.
"What’s happening on the hip-drop is the defender is encircling tackling the runner and then swinging their weight and falling on the side of their leg, which is their ankle or their knee," McKay said.
Markquese Bell #14 of the Dallas Cowboys tackles Austin Ekeler #30 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth quarter at SoFi Stadium on October 16, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
"When they use that tactic, you can see why they do, because it can be a smaller man against a bigger man and they’re trying to get that person down because that’s the object of the game. But when they do it, the runner becomes defenseless. They can’t kick their way out from under. And that’s the problem. That’s where the injury occurs. You see the ankle get trapped underneath the weight of the defender."
The league is gathering data and conducting a study on the hip-drop to make a determination. McKay understands defensive players won’t be happy if another way to tackle is banned.
"Whether it’s a tactic that’s being used or a technique, it’s creating an unreasonable risk of injury to a player," McKay said. "It’s our job to try to find a way to regulate that."
As for the "tush push" — the quarterback sneak the Philadelphia Eagles have used so successfully — the play has been legal in the NFL since 2005 when the league removed the language in the rule book that prohibited pushing offensive players.
No team has taken advantage of it quite like the Eagles under coach Nick Sirianni and QB Jalen Hurts. In short-yardage situations, Hurts gets an assist when two or three players line up in the backfield and push him across the first-down marker.
There was a discussion about potentially banning the play after last season, but the NFL’s competition committee didn’t come up with a rule to be put to a vote that would prohibit it.
"There’ll be more data, whether there’s injuries or not, there will be success rates, there will be teams that will have an opinion," McKay said, noting it takes 24 votes to push a new rule.
"Last year, we did talk about it a lot. There were enough teams to say it’s one year, let’s see it and leave it alone. So we did, and I’m sure it’ll be back again. But I just don’t want to get in the business of predicting because I really don’t know what the outcome will be. I do know it will be talked about."
Coaching interviews delayed
Owners voted to push in-person head coaching interviews back one more week until after all divisional playoff games have been completed. The goal is to slow down the hiring process and increase diverse hiring.
The timeline for virtual interviews remains the same and interviews may take place earlier for internal candidates or those not working for a club or within the NFL.
"The data shows when you have a more intentional process, you end up with more diverse results," NFL executive Dasha Smith said. "So that is really the goal here is to ultimately have a more inclusive and diverse, head coach, GM, senior leadership across the entire NFL but in particular we’ve been focusing on the head coach position."
NFL executive Peter O’Reilly said the league continues to evaluate the possibility of playing an international game in Spain or Brazil next season instead of Mexico, where the stadium is undergoing renovations and won’t be available for the second straight year.
"The reason we’re looking at Brazil and Spain is based on the size of the fan base and their market," O’Reilly said.
There’s no timeline for a decision on a fourth international game for 2024 — two games will be played in London and one in Germany — but O’Reilly said he expects an announcement in December or January.
Regarding a Super Bowl in London, O’Reilly said: "That is not a near-term focus of ours."
The NFL says it experienced a seven-year low in training camp concussions because of the use of the Guardian caps. Among players at the positions — offensive line, defensive line, tight ends, running backs, linebackers — who wore the protective head gear over their helmet, concussions were reduced by 46% over their three-year average. For positions who didn’t wear them, concussions increased by 50%.
"There really is a substantial benefit," Miller said. "There certainly will be an active discussion about next steps with that as we move forward."
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said the next step would be to expand usage of Guardian cap to players at other positions.
"Where we think this is going is not about the Guardian cap, per se, but about the better design of helmet," Sills said. "What can we learn from what the Guardian cap has taught us and incorporate that into the design of the helmet. We’re already seeing that innovation take place. We’re seeing those conversations take place. We’re also seeing some additional types of helmet add-ons that are being developed. So I think you’re going to see this be an area for innovation over the next couple of seasons based on what we’re learning so far."