October 20th, 2010
02:45 PM ET

Coach, player: Poor skills lead to violent tackles

Three Chicago Bears defenders gang-tackle the Seattle Seahawks' Justin Forsette on Sunday.

One reason football is seeing more head-to-head contact on tackles is that football fundamentals have changed over the years, players and coaches say.

Jamal Anderson, a former All-Pro running back with the Atlanta Falcons, said NFL players have changed even since he entered the league in 1994.

"These guys are bigger, they're much stronger and much faster," he said Wednesday during an interview on CNN International.

And those big, fast players don't tackle with their arms they way players used to, he said.

"Fundamentally, this is one thing that's missed out with all the big hits and the clips that you see, is fundamental blocking and tackling in football," Anderson said. "It's just nonexistent."

"You see players leaving their feet to make tackles, you see guys sticking their forearms out in their shoulder pads," Anderson said. "That's the thing the NFL is trying to guard against. You don't want to have these guys who are bigger, stronger, faster than they have ever been at any point leading with forearms to other guys' necks, sticking their head down, to think that's the right way to make a tackle."

Jon Gruden, a former college and NFL coach, agreed that players aren't learning fundamental skills.

"I think you're a better tackling team when you gang tackle," Gruden said Wednesday morning on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike" show. "When you see guys in these one-on-one situations, (the tackling is) maybe not as good as it was in the past."

Unless the NFL steps in and puts a halt to the practice through yardage penalties, fines and suspensions, the problem will continue, Anderson said.

"What you're essentially doing is teaching not only the guys in the league that are going to come, it's high schoolers, it's college players. Everybody is watching the NFL," he said.

The offensive players who most often are the recipients of vicious hits could protect themselves better too, Gruden noted on ESPN Radio. Receivers running patterns across the middle of the field need to get out of the way if the ball is not coming to them and take a low posture after making a catch, he said.

Nevertheless, there's no excuse for a missile attack by a defender, he said.

"When you see a guy leave his feet and spear a guy with the crown of his helmet, I think suspension is in order for those hits," he said on "Mike and Mike."

Football players' brains show lasting effects from repeated traumatic blows, said Chris Nowinski, a former college player, professional wrestler and author of the book "Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis."

"These are the kind of athletes that would run through a brick wall for you," he said Wednesday on CNN International. "But the reality is we can't have ex-NFL players all coming down with dementia because we thought it was fun to see them knocked out, because it made us want to cheer a little louder. That's just not a reality that we can accept.

"If we're going allow kids to play the exact same way that NFL players play, then we can't allow these kinds of hits."

Football is a physical game, and players and fans enjoy hard hitting, Anderson said.

"When you watch the teams that you support, you want to see them make big hits," he said. "You don't want guys to get hurt. You don't want permanent injuries. You don't want everything that's going on now with the concussions and stuff. You don't want guys to get knocked out. You want to see the stars of your football team to be able to show up and play.

"But you also don't want to take out what we love about this sport - how tough and how physical it is."

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Filed under: Football • Sports • U.S.
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Mehdi General Dr Bad

    Per Chance do you know where i cna Find Army Nurse Deborah Christiane D'Angelo From New Jersey?

    October 20, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. phil

    We pay to see the violence. The "hit" that knocks the other player out cold is shown first on the highlight reels. Ditto other sports like NASCAR. The most violent crash is the most seen replay. But hey, athletes know going in that we want blood, and we're willing to pay big-buucks to see it. so what if you end up like Muhammed Ali.....you were paid.

    October 20, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Ron

    If football player learned tackling skills by playing Rugby (the worlds 3rd highest watch sport behind only Olympics and World Cup Soccer), they would likely have less injuries.

    October 20, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. phil

    Ron...Anerican football players are taught how to injure the other player. Plus we use a lot of steroids. Put your rugby team on the field here and see what happens.

    October 20, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. phil

    @ron...and don't give me any "but there is drug testing in the NFL" crap. We got drugs the Olympic Commitee will be finding out about in 5 or ten years. Did you really think Lance Armstrong dominated because he was born with an enlarged heart? (actually he was, his bigger heart gave him about a 20% advantage)

    October 20, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Metallica

    That's what I have been saying for years. It is called tackle football not hit football. These overhyped players, like Ray dumb a$$ Lewis should go back to the fundamentals and learn how to tackle. For those who never played football, you tackle with your arms and hands not your shoulder and/or helmet.

    October 20, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Rick

    @Phil- Your response to Ron makes me wonder whether you've ever actually played rugby. No doubt pitting even top-level rugby players against an NFL team in a football game would result in a lopsided contest at best. The games are too different. But I don't really think that is Ron's point. In that scenario, regardless of the scoring, you would see the rugby players TACKLING very effectively and very safely. In addition, the rugby players would likely have little trouble completing the game. In the reverse situation, I'm pretty sure that even an NFL team would face a bloodbath in a World Cup level rugby game. I think it is safe to say that most of the players, possibly excepting wide receivers and defensive backs, would be incapable of completing even half of a rugby game from a conditioning standpoint. Even more importantly though, without their helmets and shoulder pads, most of them would make one or two "big football hits" and then be promptly carried off the pitch on a stretcher. The remainder would be ejected from the game for violating rugby's very sensible rules concerning safe tackling.

    October 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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