How the Seattle Seahawks are changing the way they tackle

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After spending more than 20 minutes watching a video put together by the Seattle Seahawks on how to properly tackle, I have to admit that I was surprised.  What on the surface looked like a perfect opportunity to promote the team turned out to be a great educational experience aimed at improving the safety of a game that has come under fire recently, particularly because of the proliferation of head injuries.

Once upon a time, I played football and learned how to tackle, but unfortunately, this “time” was five to six years ago, so there wasn’t as much concern about safety in football.  That’s changed and the Seahawks instructional video underscores that.  It features the “Hawk Tackle,” the “Hawk Roll Tackle,” the “Profile Tackle,” and the “Compression Tackle.”  Each emphasizes head coach Pete Carroll’s proven method of using the shoulder to tackle, rather than the head.  He employs tactics that have been used to perfection in rugby, which is displayed throughout the video in several rugby clips.  There are also clips from Seahawks games, as well as Seahawks practices, to help illustrate the way the system is used in real situations.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, left, talks with general manager John Schneider as fans fill a hill behind at an NFL football camp practice Friday, July 25, 2014, in Renton, Wash.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, left, talks with general manager John Schneider as fans fill a hill behind at an NFL football camp practice Friday, July 25, 2014, in Renton, Wash.

The best part of the video is that every bit of instruction in the video is the same as what the Seahawks players are getting in training.  First, the aptly named “Hawk Tackle” (I know I said it wasn’t promotional, but they had to get something in somewhere, all right?) is a low tackle, as well as the “Hawk Roll Tackle.”  Both involve locating the ball carrier and zeroing in on his inner hip (the one nearest to you). 

The video goes on to explain that as you need to lower your shoulder and then hit with the same side shoulder (right-to-right and vice versa).  This virtually eliminates all possibility of engaging the head in the tackle, which is exactly the kind of thing Carroll and his staff are trying to change within football culture with their unique brand of defense.  After making contact, you simply hug the other player’s thighs into your chest and take him to the ground.  The “Hawk Roll Tackle” employs the same tactics, but with a roll at the end. 

In addition, the video teaches a concept called “Drive for Five.”  This comes into play if the ball carrier doesn’t go down immediately on contact, though more often than not he will.  “Drive for Five” calls for additional force to finish the job, and it involves driving with your feet for five steps after making contact and wrapping up the thighs to bring the player to the ground.

After this, the video switches gears to talk about the “Profile Tackle,” an upper body tackle that can be used to take down smaller targets.  The “Profile Tackle” uses the pectoral muscle, simply called the “pec,” in place of the hip as the target that you must tackle.  From there, the process is the same as before: track, make contact, (with the pec this time, not the hip), wrap the shoulders (it would be pretty hard to wrap the thighs again), and then drive for five if necessary.

Finally, the “Compression Tackle” is the simplest of all.  Not because it’s easy, but because it’s only different from the others in that two guys are tackling instead of one.  Usually it’s one high and one low, so one could use a “Hawk Tackle” and the other could use a “Profile Tackle,” as is shown in one clip.

The video finishes by talking about the “Strike Zone,” which has to do with legal hits on defenseless receivers.  NFL rules protect defenseless receivers (i.e. receivers who are jumping to catch a pass) by dictating that legal contact can only be made with the torso.  The video quickly covers this, showing clips of how Carroll’s staff teaches this principle in class to make the Seahawks defense among the best in the league.

USA Football as an organization is committed to finding ways to make the game of football, one that we all know and love, safer and still just as enjoyable for our kids.  Pete Carroll has shown that not only is this method of tackling safe, but it works too.