One NFL team is actually going in the opposite direction. Kansas City HC Andy Reid has instructed his team to hit from day 1:
Two years ago, Todd Haley had the Chiefs playing the equivalent of two-hand touch throughout camp, and the result was a team woefully unprepared for the start of the season. Hugging was preferred over tackling under Romeo Crennel last season. Well, all of that is out the window with Reid, who promised during the hands-off offseason program that, well, the gloves would come off when training camp rolled around.
During his time with the Eagles, Reid preferred to hit hard early in training camp and then taper off as the regular season approached. The idea was to toughen up the team early on, and then give them time to heal before the start of a 16-game grind.
The change has left all Chiefs players with a different mindset. "Do you hit Jamaal Charles full speed?" cornerback Sean Smith said, repeating a question from a reporter with a smile. "If the drill is live, yeah, you have to. "You definitely have to take care of your teammates. You don't want to take any cheap shots or anything like that," he said. "But this is football. If we don't hit them, somebody else will." On the other hand, the Carolina Panthers are de-emphasizing hitting and want more form tackling. Coach Ron Rivera wants players wrapped up, not tackled, during training camp.
I can see both sides of this coin. Injuries can devastate a team and the Panthers have had their share in preseasons past. Avoiding full on contact should obviously limit injuries associated with hard hits. There will always be the freak accident, slip injuries so to speak so nothing is 100% foolproof.
The ramifications of poor tackling are not lost on Panthers DC Sean McDermott or S Charles Godfrey:
Panthers emphasizing wrapping up, not taking down
"It's concerning because that can be the difference between winning and losing games," McDermott said.
Safety Charles Godfrey feels like the Panthers work plenty on tackling, although it may not be the traditional full-bore style from 20 years ago. "We run to the ball, we fit up, we wrap up," Godfrey said. "Sure it's not a big collision, but the form is being worked on. So are we working on tackling? Sure. But we're just not taking guys to the ground. We are gathering ourselves and making sure we have that proper leverage and wrapping up."
So will the wrapping up versus take down tackling we've seen in TC hurt the defenses' ability to make a sure tackle? I think for some players it might but I think overall I'm with Godfrey, it should not have an impact on the veterans. The key is to get plenty of reps for the starters in the preseason since that is where we plan to get the practice hitting.
In the past we've talked about how the preseason is too long and that maybe the NFL should shorten the preseason. I think the new CBA with the rules limiting OTAs and training camp now makes the four preseason games more vital to getting ready for the season. At least for the Panthers anyway. We now have something to keep out eye during next weeks opener Thursday Night against the Bears. I'll be counting those missed tackles so we can see if there is an impact on the defense.