Among the things Jacksonville Coach Gus Bradley imported from his tenure as defensive coordinator in Seattle from 2009-12 is the idea of using rugby techniques to teach tackling that won’t draw flags from NFL officials.
With the league’s renewed emphasis on illegal contact heading into the 2014 season, NFL teams are paying special attention to the hits defensive backs level on receivers.
According to Bradley, Jacksonville’s defensive backfield acquitted itself well during the three days of training camp this summer in which NFL officials visited to underscore exactly what’s permissible — and not. He credits that, in large part, to borrowing a page from rugby, in which tackles are delivered shoulder-first and below the head.
“We really take a lot of pride in it,” Bradley said in a conference call this week. “One of the things that we have showed our guys is rugby tackling. Just look at how rugby players are handling it and how they’re tackling and the importance of it. It can be done, and you can do it with safety in mind.”
Washington’s starting strong safety Brandon Meriweather will miss Sunday’s home-opener against Jacksonville (0-1) after being suspended the first two games of the season for an illegal hit on Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith in theRedskins’ third preseason game. It was Meriweather’s sixth such infraction.
Bradley said he got the rugby idea from Seattle Coach Pete Carroll, who brought it to the attention of the Seahawks’ defensive staff.
“We studied it because we did have some issues initially just with the new rules and things like that, taking the head out of the game and some aggressive-style tackling,” Bradley said. “I give a lot of credit to Pete on that.”
Rugby, of course, is a form of football that’s known for hard hits and often brutal physicality. Played around the world, it’s set to join the Summer Olympics in the 2016 Rio Games. Its governing body, the Dublin-based International Rugby Board, has grown increasingly concerned about injuries that result from tackles above the shoulders.
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