With football season at all levels already in full swing, we asked our friend and frequent contributor,
Sal Marinello, President, Athletic Development Coaching, for his 2 Sense on the state of tackling in today’s game.
For the past several years, football has been affected by the controversy regarding concussions, both how to minimize their occurrence and how to treat players once concussed. Youth football enrollment has declined over the years due in large part to this situation and the general injury fears harbored by concerned parents.
In an attempt to both assuage the feelings of these parents and make the game safer, the football powers-that-be – led by the NFL and USA Football – developed the ‘Head’s Up’ program to teach kids a safe way to tackle.
My position is that football is a dangerous game and that there is not a safe way to tackle, and that ‘football’ is doing itself and the public a disservice by telling people otherwise. I’ve had the opportunity to go on ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines,’ nationally syndicated morning sports radio ‘The Steve Czaban Show,’ and written about it on More Sports Now to express and defend this position. So I’m not going to go too in depth here.
That being said, the ‘Heads Up’ program is well-meaning but ultimately will have no impact on the safety of the game, other than to raise awareness that the head cannot be used to tackle. One of the major flaws of the program, aside from how the method is taught, is the lack of in-game footage from any level showing this technique actually being used in a game.
Which brings us to the Seahawks Tackling Method, named after and used by the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL. The Seahawks method was developed by Assistant Head Coach Rocky Seto and is based on the tackling techniques used by top-level International rugby players.
The tackling techniques emphasize using the shoulder to initiate contact at the ‘near hip’ – hip closest to the defender – and not putting the head in front of the ball carrier, with the arms squeezing and wrapping at the thigh level in order to take the player to the ground. As most anybody knows, rugby is played without a helmet, therefore, rugby players cannot and do not use their heads as a tackling appendage, or else they wouldn’t be playing rugby for long.
The teaching methods employed by the Seahawks feature a progression that starts with the players working on the tackling fundamentals helmetless, wearing t-shirts and shorts, and builds to full speed drills that replicate game conditions. Starting helmetless and working at half speed allows the players to learn the technique properly and develop an awareness that keeps the head out of the tackle, as much as humanly possible.
The Seahawks Tackling Method keeps the head out of tackle better than any other method that I have seen. An added benefit of this method is that all the drills put players I’m positions that are similar to what they will encounter in game conditions, which increases the likelihood that the technique will carryover to games.
If you watch the video, you will see Seattle Seahawks players of every position, arguably the best defense in the NFL, making real tackles using this technique in games. Something ‘Heads Up’ tackling method does not do.
Now I am not saying the Seahawks method is safe. But it is safer and better than other methods I have seen. Tackling is not a safe endeavor. I have seen players make the perfect tackle and still break bones, dislocate shoulders and tear ligaments. This is what happens when people run full speed into each other and hit the ground and other people who happen to be in the vicinity.
Thanks to outside the box thinking the Seahawks have done something that really has a chance to minimize the use of the head in a tackle and, in the long run, potentially minimize concussions and other damage to a player. Their efforts to develop this method and encourage its’ use beyond the confines of the Seahawks defensive philosophy is a step in the right direction in improving the quality of tackling at all levels of football.