Huge Rugby Hits!!!!!! (via eoin900)
There has been a lot of furor recently regarding violent or headhunting hits from the NFL over the past week. This topic has come up before and will likely come up again, with the NFL trying to fine or legislate the hard or brutal hits out of the league while still profiting from it (as Stink very thoughtfully pointed out). I don’t know why the NFL has come down so hard lately, but there has been a vocal minority (including Mike Ditka and Joe Pa at Penn State) that have been advocating that the face mask is removed from the helmet. Few remember that the NFL had days where the face mask was not standard gear for a helmet and the helmets were little more than cheap pieces of plastic. I have advocated and I think the time has come to do more than that and remove all hard plastic protection (except maybe the cup) from players and go to a Rugby style tackling rules.
For those of you not familiar with the sport of Rugby, it is where football as we know it was derived from. The Rugby tackling rules are rather straight forward and simply state, a person tackling the ball carrier must attempt to wrap the ball carrier (basically can’t just go in like a missile and try to knock them over), the tackler cannot leave their feet to tackle, the tackler must hit the player below the shoulders and cannot lead with their head. Many people will scoff and say that this will lead to many injuries, but the fact is that proper tackling technique leads to fewer injuries as a person generally will protect themselves when making a tackle and learn to lead with a shoulder rather than their head.
I grew up playing football and was not introduced to Rugby until college. I had been taught to run through a guy and to stick my helmet into someone’s chest and drive through them. With the helmet and padding this became an easy way to tackle and after training camp I rarely felt any affects from hitting people with my helmet or face mask first. I began playing Rugby in college and having been taught some bad techniques in jr high and high school, I was somewhat intimidated trying to make my first tackles in Rugby practice and didn’t know how I would be able to take the pounding without my pads or helmet. I had to re-learn how to line a person up, how to wrap up, drive, and hit with my shoulder first. And I had a few times where I reverted to my pre-college ways and got some stitches in my face for my poor form. But eventually, I learned, my body got used to taking hits and delivering them, and I became very comfortable on the field. And I will say sans the stitches, I really had no serious injuries playing collegiate Rugby, as opposed to by pre-college football days where I had suffered concussions, separated shoulder, chipped teeth, and a knee injury. And I will say I played against a lot of men bigger and faster than me in college, some of them D-1 college football players trying to stay in shape in the off-season, and I did not suffer any major injuries. I also noticed that there were very few major injuries in a Rugby game as well, sometimes a head on head might happen and a player got knocked out, but I never saw anyone carted off the field, everyone was able to walk off the field.
The following is a highlight video of some "big" hits from Rugby. The thing I would like you to notice is that almost all of the hits, guys always lead with their shoulder and are trying to wrap up the ball carrier (although some of the hits shown are illegal (ones to the head). I think if the NFL is serious about protecting their players, it's time to go back to the basics. Football was started without pads and helmets, we can still play it without helmets and pads.