Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and defensive passing game coordinator Rocky Seto teamed up this offseason to produce an educational video on an issue crucial to football on all levels: safe tackling.
With concussions shifting from the dark shadows of NFL history to the spotlight, youth football has focused on “heads up” tackling. Coaches are offered Heads Up certification through USA Football. The NFL is reassuring parents that football is a safe sport for their children if it is played in the right way.
Since their USC days, Carroll and Seto have wanted to “take the head out of tackling”. Learning lessons from rugby players, who can’t lead with the helmet because they don’t even have one, they taught “shoulder leverage tackling”. Footwork, pad level and eye discipline are central to taking down the ball carrier safely with the arms and shoulders.
Carroll and Seto produced the video “Seahawks Tackling”. They break the presentation into six segments: Hawk Tackle, Hawk Roll Tackle, Profile Tackle, Strike Zone, Tracking and Compression Tackle. “We are passionate about teaching about this style of tackling because we desire to keep the standards of the game high and make the game as safe as possible,” Carroll explains in the video.
The strike zone concept is central to eliminating helmet-to-helmet of helmet-to-knee contact. Just like a pitcher in baseball, tacklers must aim above the knees and below the shoulders, reducing both injuries and penalties. The video uses Seahawks practice footage to display the drills they use to avoid hitting too high or low.
Carroll and Seto presented it to commissioner Roger Goodell, 14,000 high school football teams and 8,000 youth programs. “Coach Carroll sent me the video and I thought it was terrific,” Goodell said. “I hope players, coaches and parents at all levels of the game take the time to watch it.”
The video includes Seahawks game footage, rugby techniques and film from actual Seattle practices. The term “eyes to thighs” is used many times, and Carroll often mentions “tracking the near hip”. The key is using the head not as a weapon but to guide the shoulder is key.
“It gave the answer,” said John Madden, co-chair of the NFL Player Safety Advisory Panel. “We take the head out and you put the shoulder and the arms and the techniques and the drills in.”
I have feared that increased emphasis on player safety could lead to the death of true, tough football. Carroll illustrates it’s not a matter of stopping what you do, but changing how you do it. With smart youth coaches utilizing Heads Up techniques, I think our favorite sport has a bright, safe future.