Tackling by the Hair is Completely OK in the NFL. So Why Does it Rarely Happen?
I’ve always thought it was weird that tackling a player by his hair is NOT against the rules in football. Especially now that the league is doing more and more to prevent injuries, grabbing by the hair seems like something they would have made illegal 20 to 30 years ago when players first started letting their locks flow out the back of their helmets. As we saw Sunday when Jadeveon Clowney brought Bills RB Chris Ivory down by a single strand of Ivory’s dreadlock, the result is the same thing that would happen with what’s known as a “horse-collar.” Grabbing a player by the back collar or the back part of the shoulder pads is a serious infraction because of the awkward way horse-collared players go down. Watch this video and you’ll see Ivory go to the ground in a way that just looks like it could cause a major ligament tear or leg fracture.
Here’s what’s always struck me as strange: grabbing by the hair seems as effective as a horse-collar and it’s absolutely NOT against the rules. So why is it so rare to see in the NFL? Lots and Lots of players have hair cascading down their backs but it is very uncommon to see a defensive player grab a handful of hair to make a tackle. Is there some kind of unwritten rule against it? Do NFL players observe a “gentleman’s agreement” that hair-grabbing is verboten?
After the tackle, you even see Clowney IMMEDIATLEY go to help Ivory to his feet. You can’t hear what’s said, but it really looks like Clowney may be apologizing for a perfectly legal tackle. And Ivory seems to accept the apology?!
If this kind of hair-tackle DID happen more frequently, I would question why so many players sport long hair. I get that long hair or dreads may look really cool. But, these guys spend countless hours in the gym conditioning themselves and eating extremely healthy…basically, doing everything they can to get even a slight advantage or gain an extra step. Having a huge drape of tackle-bait seems like something these highly skilled men would be willing to sacrifice even if it only happens infrequently.
Also, what happened to the days when a coach like Tom Landry and my 9th-grade coach, Mr. Cruz, would just say, “Get a haircut, hippie, or you’re off the team?”