Saturday, October 08, 2011

Where's Your Head?

There has been a great deal of commentary on two things in football lately, poor tackling and concussions, but nobody seems able to put those two subjects together. Apparently all football coaches today are also golfers, and subscribe to the “keep your head down” theory, which may work in golf but is exactly wrong in football. My coach, back in the dark ages when the face mask on a helmet was a single bar and I was allowed to not use it because my opponents kept using the damn thing as a handle, kept drumming into me that “you cannot hit what you cannot see,” which meant keeping your head UP when you were making a tackle.

Defenders seem to think they are pilotless drones firing Hellfire missiles these days. Tackling does not mean that you “light him up” or knock the ball carrier to the ground with some sort of massive hit. It means that you put your chest on him, wrap your arms around him and take him to the ground in his tracks. In a proper tackle, your chest hits the ball carrier above the knees and below his chest. When you do that he cannot stiff arm you, and if your head is up watching him, he cannot sidestep you. It works equally well when you are taking him down from the front, side, or catching up with him from behind.

A tackle made in that manner will never, ever result in a concussion. How often do you see such a tackle in professional football, or even in college?

The NFL creates a rule outlawing contact in practice sessions, which worsens the problem. How does a player learn to tackle when he is not allowed to practice doing it? The result is more of the “flying missiles,” more yards gained after missed tackles, and more concussions rather than fewer. Stupid.

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