Ravens' John Harbaugh sounds off on controversial tackling technique: 'Bad play'


Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh sounded off on the hip-drop tackle technique when he was asked whether there was a challenge to teaching proper tackling.

The NFL decided to ban the technique during the annual meeting, among other changes. It drew lots of blowback from the players, but Harbaugh was in the camp that supported the tackle ban.

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Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh looks on during the second quarter of the game against the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 31, 2023 in Baltimore. (Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

“When did you ever hear about the hip-drop tackle until like two years ago, three years ago, right? That’s because it was discovered, probably, in rugby and started being executed as a standalone technique,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a three-part movement, [and] you’ve got to execute that play. You’ve got to be close enough to that ball carrier to actually get him around the hips, pull him close to yourself, swing your hips through and drop on the back of his legs. 

“If you’re that close, wrap him up, tackle him and take him to the ground, like Ray Lewis used to do and everybody did for 100 years before that. But you’re talking about a tackle that the ball carrier has no method of escape from; he can’t escape. So, when you drop down on the back of his legs, it’s a mass … And it’s 25 times more likely to have a serious injury. 

John Harbaugh in Indiana

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh speaks to the media during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on Feb. 27, 2024 in Indianapolis. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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“So, it’s really a bad play, and it needed to be out. And guys are going to tackle just fine without the quote-unquote hip-drop tackle, because they tackled just fine without it for 100 years of football before that, when you never saw it, really.”

The controversial tackle, where a defender wraps the ball carrier with their hands or arms, and then drops their hips, causing the other player’s legs and feet to get trapped, has been a hot topic around the league. 

The tackle has caused injuries to numerous players, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has led the way for the rule to be voted on.

One of the main examples being used for the hip-drop is former San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward’s tackle during the 2022 postseason against then-Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard. Ward’s tackle forced Pollard to suffer an ankle injury that eventually needed surgery to repair.

Mark Andrews tackled

Mark Andrews, #89 of the Baltimore Ravens, is tackled by Logan Wilson, #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals, during the first quarter of the game at M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 16, 2023 in Baltimore. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews was also a victim of the hip-drop tackle this season. He suffered a significant injury against the Cincinnati Bengals, and it cost him most of his 2023 season.

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Since then, the NFL has found 105 hip-drop tackles out of 20,000 tackles reviewed since 2022, per Pro Football Talk. They have also found the tackle increases the risk of injury 25 times the standard tackle injury rate.

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