NFL to consider ‘mechanics’ of tackle that injured Cowboys’ Pollard
The NFL does not believe the tackles that injured Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard during last weekend’s divisional-round playoff games were illegal under the current rules, multiple people familiar with the deliberations said Wednesday.
The league and its competition committee do plan to consider the “mechanics of the tackle in Pollard’s case” as part of their offseason discussions, one of those people said.
The current view by the league would make it unlikely that Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Arden Key or San Francisco 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward would face disciplinary action by the league for their roles in the plays, although final decisions on fines from last weekend’s games were not clear by Wednesday.
Pollard left the Cowboys’ season-ending loss to the 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday and underwent surgery Tuesday to have ligaments in his ankle repaired. He suffered a high-ankle sprain when his foot was trapped beneath Ward’s body as Ward tackled him. Pollard also suffered a fractured fibula on the play.
Mahomes suffered a high-ankle sprain on a tackle by Key during the Chiefs’ victory Saturday over the Jaguars in Kansas City. The star quarterback was briefly pulled from the game, despite his objections, to undergo Xrays. Mahomes returned to the field to begin the second half and finished the game. He said Wednesday that he intends to play against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals in Sunday’s AFC championship game.
The NFL has responded in the past to high-profile injuries with rule changes or modifications, including a 2009 addition to its roughing-the-passer criteria after low hits sidelined star quarterbacks Tom Brady and Carson Palmer. Perhaps most pertinent to a consideration of a change in the wake of the Pollard injury, the league enacted a ban on horse-collar tackles in 2005 following a number of injuries on such plays, including a sprained ankle and a broken right fibula suffered by wide receiver Terrell Owens upon being pulled down from behind by safety Roy Williams.
As with horse-collar tackles, hip drop tackles tend to occur either directly from behind or at an angle and can place a ball-carrier at great risk of suffering a major lowerbody injury.
In a video issued last year by the NRL to clarify what it deemed illegal hip drop tackles, the league pointed to three “key indicators”:
A defender gaining a grip on an opposing ballcarrier and using it to “lift or maintain body weight to then drop or swing their hip(s) around.” This movement would be notable for its “unnatural” appearance in the context of the sport.
The defender then swiveling his hips away from the ball-carrier and dropping onto the latter’s body, usually the lower limbs, to bring the ballcarrier to a sudden halt.
“Whilst we didn’t believe that players were deliberately looking to injure other players with this type of tackle,” Nathan McGuirk, the NRL’s general manager for competitions and operations, wrote in an email this week, “it was clear that players were acting in a careless manner and breaching their duty of care to their opposing players.”
Pollard’s injuries could prove costly for the fourth-year player, who is set to hit free agency unless the Cowboys use the franchise tag on him. Pollard, who accumulated 12 touchdowns and 1,378 yards from scrimmage this season, is reportedly expected to recover before NFL teams start training camp this summer.