The great Packers coach Vince Lombardi is often used as the embodiment of a time when men were men, football players were tough, and no one complained about too much helmet-to-helmet contact. But one of Lombardi’s players says that in reality, Lombardi was concerned about players’ well-being and coached players to avoid hits to the head.
Dave Robinson, a linebacker who was voted into the Hall of Fame this year, played 12 years in the NFL, including five seasons on Lombardi’s Packers in the 1960s. And Robinson told USA Today that Lombardi would stand behind NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in his efforts to make the game safer.
“He was very strict about dirty play,” Robinson said. “He would never have stood for helmet-to-helmet contact, he just wouldn’t have.”
Robinson said he thinks that old-school coaches, who grew up playing football in the days of leather helmets and no facemasks, came up at a time when players hit with their shoulders and therefore coached that way. (Here’s a picture of Lombardi in college — players wearing those kinds of helmets avoided leading with their heads as a matter of self-preservation.)
“There are no more Vince Lombardis, there are no more Paul Browns, there are no more George Halases,” Robinson said. “They were all the guys who worked at it for years and years and really understood the profession. [NFL coaches today] have never been taught the correct way to tackle. If they’ve never been taught, how in the heck can you expect them to teach it?”
Lombardi didn’t want his players to grab, grab, grab, but he didn’t want them to lead with the crowns of their helmets, either. The NFL wants to see a return to the Lombardi style of form tackling.