Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The lost art of NFL tackling by Gregory Gee with Bharv

Harrison launching head first

James Harrison was not on the field Monday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers played the San Francisco 49ers after the NFL denied his appeal of a one-game suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.
The NFL cited Harrison’s history of dangerous hits — one that now includes five helmet-to-helmet hits on quarterbacks — in its decision. Harrison will become the first player suspended under the league’s new crack down on hits to the head, which followed another Steelers-Browns game last season during which Harrison had two helmet-to-helmet hits. source

James Harrison responded by stating:

"17 games, 1000+ snaps, 100+ tackles, 12+sacks and 2 forces fumbles since my last incident and I get a suspension for a football play!"

 No, Mr. Harrison, you did not get suspended for a football play, you got suspended for violating the NFL's helmet-to-helmet policy. This rule was implemented to protect players from concussions and long term cognitive damages. Furthermore, you should be made aware, as a flagrant and frequent repeat violator of this rule, helmet-to-helmet hitting is not only dangerous, it is not sound football tackling technique.

You may have your defenders: Some analyst and former players have defended Harrison’s play by pointing out the speed of game that does not allow for the defender to pull up or adjust to avoid from making helmet to helmet contact.

 Oh really? Show me what football camp, school, team or program that teaches to lead with the helmet? Each of Harrison’s fines has been because of leading with the helmet - not because he lowered his shoulder and he accidently hit the offensive player who ducked into his helmet.

 Mike Golic, of ESPN’s Mike and Mike, accuses the NFL of trying to soften the aggressive mentality that is indoctrinated into players at a young age and penalize players for what they are paid to do: deliver bone crunching, head jarring hits.  Somewhat true on the latter statement, but coaches teach techniques, which are tools for the player to incorporate and unleash aggressiveness.

Are not players taught to tackle by lowering the shoulder, make contact/hit with the pads while keeping the head up?  Player can use their aggression to tackle/hit through the player. That is a nice violent, clean hit. We pay, enjoy and watch for that type of hits, not the dirty play of Harrison. Just remember, Hall of Famer, Ronnie Lott consistently delivered some of the most spectacular and brutal hits - all delivered clean and with solid tackling technique.

And Trent Dilfer, who I think is one of ESPN’s best analysts, thought Harrison’s hit was a football hit because the quarterback was ducking on Harrison’s approach. Trent, look at it again: Harrison is leading with the helmet, not shoulder pads. Once again,who teaches leading with helmet?

The irony of this discussion: I have heard many analyst (including Golic) speak of how horrendous tackling has become in the NFL. I agree and cite, hard tackling has been replaced with just trying to deliver a hard hit. Defending this style of play will not restore the art of tackling. But maybe the NFL levying a game suspension against Harrison may lead to some players reincorporating the fundamentals of tackling.

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