OT: Shoulder (Rugby style) tackling

Submitted by UMProud on January 16th, 2017 at 12:41 PM

The Seahawks are utilizing shoulder style tackling and claim it reduces concussion instances.  Brian touched on this last April but after seeing them in the playoffs I found my curiosity piqued again.



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"A few years ago, the Seattle Seahawks transitioned to rugby-style tackling, in part because of concerns about injuries. Pete Carroll, assisted by Seattle’s passing game coordinator, Rocky Seto, produced a video in 2014 to help teach the technique at the college, high school and youth levels.

"There’s so much talk around the league and around the game of football right now, that I wanted to see if we could contribute to helping people understand how you could play this game and do it in a great fashion and continue to promote the game," Carroll said.

It’s a technique that former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn brought with him to Atlanta when he accepted the head coaching position prior to the 2015 season.

"The rugby tackling really involves shoulder tackling," Quinn said when he was hired by the Falcons. "It’s a leverage tackling principle, so for us, not only is it safer but it’s more effective for us to do that."

Source:  SBNation, Jeanna Thomas, 9/6/2016



January 16th, 2017 at 12:49 PM ^

Interesting. Knowing the NFL, they would want Years of statistical study before they would make a recommendation or rule change. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction.

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carolina blue

January 16th, 2017 at 12:50 PM ^

Interestingly, in rugby, you must tackle this way. Some of the tackles that football players attempt (most notably the "blow him up" tackle) would be illegal. You have to wrap the player up. Trying to knock a player unconscious is not allowed. I wouldn't be surprised if, in a few years, a similar rule is put into place for football.

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January 16th, 2017 at 1:11 PM ^

a running back can force the tackler into very heavy contact by lowering his head and shoulders and taking him on squarely thereby not providing any angle for the tackler to attack from.  This is possible (if dangerous) because of the helmet and body armor he wears.  A rugby player would need incredible bravery/stupidity to attack a defender in this manner.

I applaud the shoulder tackling technique but it's not a cure-all.  When it is utilized in a head-on situation the RB need only to cut slightly toward the shoulder the tackler is using and he will fall forward for an extra yard or two if the bodies are around the same size.  If the tackler handles the runner head on he is more likely to bring the runner down immediately.


January 16th, 2017 at 12:56 PM ^

There are a few college coaches that have moved in this direction too actually. When Chris Ash was still the DC at Ohio State, I think he actually talked Urban into adopting it as well, and they did so with some success when it came to overall performance as well as safety. I think the Atlanta Falcons are also huge believers in this approach too, and as I recall, the Seahawks and Falcons have the lowest concussion rates in the league.


January 16th, 2017 at 12:59 PM ^

The problem is this does nothing to address helmet to helmet contact between lineman on every play, incidental helmet to helmet when both players go low, etc.  Rugby and football are two different sports, every football play involves players hitting each other often with those impacts occuring with multiple steps of force behind them, rarely in rugby is a hit occuring with both or even one player with more than two steps of momentum.  CTE isn't the product of concussions from massive hits, its also constant mini trauma's. 

You can look for ways to reduce the danger but its reasons for that why removing the helmet wouldn't work and would be dangerous, football and rugby are different.

Winthorpe. Louis III

January 16th, 2017 at 1:01 PM ^

toward reducing catasrophic injuries in American Football.  It would also make for much higher scoring games, I suspect. Of course it would also change the game fundamentally and would likely be not as marketable from an entertainment standpoint.  I would love to see this tried in an alternative format. Sort of like Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl games with people who know what they're doing who don't keep pulling their hammies on every third snap.


January 16th, 2017 at 1:01 PM ^

I played both Rugby and Football. Whenever I tell people I played Rugby I get the usual, "Woo, that's a brutal sport." When I say played football, I am usually met with indifference. I've always found this odd because football hurts way fucking more to play than rugby. I would leave football practices glad they are over and kind of dreading the next one. I would leave rugby practice and be kind of sad it was over. We tackled a lot, but is was fun and felt safer. I could not name everytime I had bad headaches after football practices because there were too many to name. The locker room was filled with bottle of ibuprofen. But with rugby, I can tell you each individual one because they were so few in number.

A lot of that has to do with the rule you mentioned, wrapping up on tackles forces you to come in under control.

All tackles at the head or neck area are strictly penalized.

Most importantly, I think, is the lack of helments. You can't use your head as a weapon if you know its vulnerable. You can't use your body as weapon in the same way, because it is vulnerable too.


January 16th, 2017 at 1:18 PM ^

Came in to say exactly this.

I played rugby and football through high school and continued on with rugby once I got to college. The only time I ever saw a serious injury (in person) on the rugby field was when the tackler used horrible technique and tried a football style take down.

You pointed out the lack of helmet being a point of importance and I couldn't agree more. Any time I would go to tackle, I was the scrum-half so it wasn't too often, I would always be concious of head placement because I felt so exposed. Football on the other hand, I was willing to throw my body at any/everything because I felt the pads and helmet would prevent injury.

Overall I think its great that teams have identified this and there seems to be some evidence that techniques like this are working. It's definitely worth keeping an eye on moving forward to see if more teams adopt this model at any level of football.


January 16th, 2017 at 1:25 PM ^

I'd say its because the injuries are very visible. Busted open lips, nose bleeds, black eyes, cauliflour ear, and some twisted fingers. But in the grand scheme of things those are minor. There is also this misnomer that pads protect you and make you safer in football and I think there is a real argument to be had to the contrary.


January 16th, 2017 at 1:35 PM ^

Although I was a hooker in the scrum and can vouch firsthand there are a fair number of injuries at that position caused by the ton of weight pressing from all directions.

Players don't tee up in rugby, the game is more fluid and lateral than football typically, and I believe this difference alone prevents a lot of concussions. If a rugby player is carrying the ball and an opponent attempts to kill the guy, the target will simply hip-fake and pitch the ball laterally before contact and, if necessary, shed the would-be tackler and keep running to the ball, no problem.

Football can be just as exciting, albeit with fewer cracks of the pads, with so-called rugby style tackling and, if this proves safer, why not mandate it? There is only so much to be achieved by modifying football helmets, the brain still floats in a water bath surrounded by hard bone. If you want to make football even more exciting, encourage more lateral passing as with rugby.

"rucks and mauls may break my balls but lineouts will never hurt me"


Blue Balls Afire

January 16th, 2017 at 1:01 PM ^

I'm fascinated that people consider this form of tackling novel.  This is what we were taught was the proper form of tackling 30 years ago when I played Rocket football and then through high school.  I thought this was the proper form of tackling being taught at all levels, and the reason we didn't see it as much in the NFL and college was because players were always going for the big hit instead of the sure tackle--that is, they were taught the proper way, they just didn't do it.  I guess I was wrong and players were being coached a different method.  Interesting.

Blue Balls Afire

January 16th, 2017 at 1:12 PM ^

Likewise.  I just saw your post.  We were taught the 'head across' method too, and the emphasis was on keeping your head up, not looking down, when tackling.  That's how you got leverage on the ball-carrier.  Head acrooss, shoulder to hip, wrap up with the arms, and drive through the ball-carrier.  No spearing with the shoulder.  No launching with a forearm.  No leading with the helmet, ever.  I thought this was standard football 101.  I guess not.


January 16th, 2017 at 1:08 PM ^

Not sure how innovative this is. This is how I was taught to tackle at a really successful HS (football) years ago. The one thing I noticed in the video is that the players did not put their head across the body to the ball. We were taught to "bite the ball." and put our body "across the bow" to not slip off.


January 16th, 2017 at 1:27 PM ^

There are a number of ways to simplify this rule. Personally, I think any tackle made with out an attempt to wrap up should be considered targeting. No more leading with the shoulder or leading with the helmet hair splitting. It won't eliminate head hits,but its pretty easy to see:


Not Targeting:


Not Targeting:

Doesn't fix everything, but I think it's the way to put this rule that makes sense. Arm outside the body: no flag. Arms inside: flag.


January 16th, 2017 at 1:24 PM ^

I started playing youth football in the late 60's. Blocking and tackling was all shoulders back then. High school was the start of leading with the head. In D2 football I got my first really padded up helmet with a metal mask which helped.  The cheap high school hemets were jjust a plastic shell at my school. 

I Coached my sons in youth football and it was back to shoulder blocking and tackling. When they hit high school in the early 2000's they were switched to head first also.  


January 16th, 2017 at 1:26 PM ^

I still think the best way to tackle is with the chest and face mask squarely facing the ball carrier. The crown of the head should never get involved. Not sure when it became a "throw your body at the guy" sport.

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January 16th, 2017 at 1:53 PM ^

My high school program has started teaching this tackling technique over the past couple years, and the number of concussions dropped significantly. In fact, I don't think we had a single concussion that was suffered on defense. The only concussions we had all year were offensive players (QB got blindsided, a couple guys had their heads hit the ground when getting tackled, etc.), and none were helmet-to-helmet. We also really improved at tackling. I'm all in on these tackling methods and drills.


January 16th, 2017 at 2:34 PM ^

Remember ESPN's "jacked up" segments?  You had a generation of players watching that stuff and now it has to be undone.

The rugby style tackling is not only safer, it's more effective.  Fewer yards after contact, fewer "bounce off" blown tackles.


January 16th, 2017 at 2:42 PM ^

I'm sorry but isn't this the way every little boy is taught to tackle from age 5 anyway.  It's the poor mechanics of the "blow him up" style tackling that leads to head to head contact hits.


January 16th, 2017 at 3:36 PM ^

Those guys are crazy for tackling without helmets....but... they are forced to use perfect form or get injured.

In the Pitt / Chiefs game, there was a late game helmet-to-helmet hit which extended the Chiefs drive and allowed them to score at the end.  Totally unnecessary hit and the WR was shaken up on the play.  Using a helmet as a battering ram to break up a pass is so not cool.

Roy G. Biv

January 16th, 2017 at 4:05 PM ^

20+ years of rugby, and zero concussions for me. I do admit, however, that my shoulders did not work 100% for a while in the latter years. Impingement, slipping, soreness. Even now, when pitching to my son my 3/4 delivery is more like 5/8. People always think rugby is such a rough game, but IMO it is not nearly as violent as football. No armored 200 pound projectiles flying at your head in rugby. The method of tackling in modern football probably needs serious reevaluation. I would think we still would love football without the "blow him up" hits.


January 16th, 2017 at 4:21 PM ^

My 9 year old started playing rugby over here a few months ago and I was really concerned at first basically bec. I didn't understand the game. But now that's been in it for bit and has become  known as one of his teams best tacklers I can see why its safer than American FB. No one whats to throw themselves at another when they themselves are so exposed. The pace of the game is slower too at least at this age so there are no high speed collisions. 


January 16th, 2017 at 5:54 PM ^

Weird. This is how I got taught to tackle in middle school. My school was the feeder school to Jackson Lumen Christi which has won several low level Michigan state championships (I didn't go there and don't prefer them, but I feel it's relevant that they were good when they got older)

When the concussion stuff started, I used to not understand how other people tackled because it felt like spearing and felt less safe for neck/spine reasons. Then I read about the concussion stuff and was like "woah."