Pete Carroll urges rugby-style tackling in instructional video


The NFL’s emphasis on tackling with the shoulders, instead of the head, isn’t just about player safety. According to the coach of the best defense in football, it’s also the most effective way to bring a ball carrier down.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has released an instructional video showing the way his coaching staff teaches tackling.

“Our tackling system features shoulder tackling and a renewed emphasis on taking the head out of tackling. We’ve found our style to be successful in the NFL and in college, and we believe it can be employed at all levels,” Carroll said.

Carroll pointed to rugby — in which players don’t wear helmets — as the sport with the best tackling techniques.

“We have found that we can practice and drill our tackling without pads or a helmet,” Carroll said. “This system of tackling was recently inspired by those who play rugby around the world. Rugby players have truly taken the head out of the game and truly exemplify shoulder tackling.”

If the techniques used in rugby are safer than the techniques in football, that raises a question: Did all of the additional equipment given to football players through the years, supposedly for player safety, actually make the American style of football less safe than it would be if, like rugby, it had eschewed protective equipment through the years?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell probably isn’t going to propose doing away with the helmet any time soon, but he does like what Carroll is preaching.

“Coach Carroll sent me the video and I thought it was terrific,” Goodell said. “It’s a great thing for our game to have the head coach of the Super Bowl champs teaching tackling techniques that protect the head and making it available to everyone. I hope players, coaches and parents at all levels of the game take the time to watch it.”

Carroll says in the video that “We are a shoulder-tackling team.” Goodell wants the NFL to have 32 shoulder-tackling teams.

66 responses to “Pete Carroll urges rugby-style tackling in instructional video

  1. No, helmets and extra padding did not make football more dangerous. In 1905, they didn’t wear any padding and had leather helmets and 15 people died playing football. (And Teddy Roosevelt threatened government intervention if the rules weren’t changed to make the game safer. )

  2. He should have been the HOF coach already. His tackling techniques is going to kill every player in the NFL. Just bc they won a little super bowl doesn’t mean teams should start playing his way. Goodell influences everything he sees on tape. That’s y NFL has big problems.

  3. “Rugby players have truly taken the head out of the game”
    The head was never part of the tackle in rugby, so that line strikes me as a bit odd. Other than that, it’s great to see!

  4. “The video is excellent,” Madden said Monday during a telephone interview. “We’ve been looking for something like that for a long time. ”

    Ask some Rugby coaches to come over and teach… We have been doing this type of tackling since the dawn of the game. It is safer but the video doesn’t teach correct head placement, which is a must to reduce neck injuries.

  5. I’ve been saying the same thing for years.

    Take away the helmets. When a player wears a helmet, he will use his head as a weapon. When you remove the helmet, the player is forced to protect his head and will tackle with his shoulders.

    Rugby players have it right…. too much padding makes things more dangerous.

  6. Now here’s a coach who is making football safer, but not taking any physicality from the game either. Pete accually coaches unlike some other coaches that don’t do much

  7. What ever happened to wrapping a player up and using form to bring someone down?

    You know where your momentum that you generate by turning your hips in the opposite direction stops theirs effectively ending the play?

    Seems to me the shoulder tackle could turn into a helmet tackle if the offensive player does something crazy, like ummm duck.

    But what are the odds of that happening?

  8. Smart move by Pete. A subtle apple to the teacher. Probly works better than the way Harbaugh does things. Throwing a fit like a 3 year old on the sidelines. Pete>harbaby

  9. Rugby has a fraction of the injuries of Football. Part of it is the rules of the game (blocking is a foul, so there aren’t really any blindside hits) but the protective equipment is definitely a big part as well. At the professional level where you use any advantage available, the protective equipment just engenders a recklessness of throwing your body into contact, and assuming the pads will protect you.

    When I played rugby, people used to always say, “Man, that’s rough game, isn’t it scary not wearing pads?” to which I would always answer, “Yeah, I’m not wearing pads, but neither is the other guy.”

  10. Of course some of the safety equipment made the game more violent ! You don’t use your head like a spear if you aren’t wearing a helmet with extensive face masks .

  11. Hate him all you want but he knows whats up.

    Fact: Seahawks weren’t flagged for 1 helmet to helmet hit last year.

    Go ahead, keep hating on him and Go Hawks!

  12. Fundamentals start with having fun and ends with being mental about it, you need to have both or you are banging your head literally and figuratively. Good for Carroll to be preaching about this!

  13. The part nobody has commented on yet is the funniest part. “teaching tackling” I would like to assume that these guys who have been playing football since they were 8 yrs old would already know how to tackle. Then on the other part. How many yrs has Pete been coaching the Seahawks? Because it looks to me like his defense ignores him. Look at the video on his defense. More times then not his defense tackles like most other NFL players do…leading with their head and trying to take somebody’s head off.

  14. Wrapping them up and putting them down means more injury as you are dropping them on their back. The reason 15 players died in 1905 is because of archaic medicine, we have a lot of breakthroughs since then. Rugby should have been looked at long ago. The added bonus is those men are massive and can take the blow. A NFL players physique pales in comparison

  15. not too many rugby players running a 4.4/40 then launching themselves into a guy running a 4.5 and is 250lbs. he cut out the Steiner-lines and broken clavicles in rugby too.

  16. This is the man (and his crew) who transformed Kam Chancellor from a player who had almost lost his entire year’s salary in fines for hits to the most respected enforcer in the league. I’m almost sorry he’s giving an advantage away.

  17. You can look right at the two safety positions on the Seahawks to see both extremes of tackling.

    On the one hand you have Kam Chancellor who on a regular basis knocks the socks off of TE’ss around the league using proper heads-up shoulder technique.

    Then on the other end you have Earl Thomas who almost always ducks his head low at the point of impact. As terrific a player as Thomas is, I cringe and pray a little when I see him tackle that way.

  18. The reason 15 players died in 1905 is because of archaic medicine:

    There was a lot more to it than that.
    football then was mass formations charging into mass formations.

    Everything was the sort of old kickoff style wedge/wedge busting that was made a penalty last year.
    Only with almost everyone on almost every play not just the recently proscribed three players during a kickoff.

  19. As a Niner fan, and a nfl fan, i love this video. Good for the hawks and coach, this is truly the best way to tackle.I hope they rework it and send to the rest of the NFL as well. Lose the Hawk part and teach it as the roll technique and the like. Great training video for all levels of football. Also like one other poster pointed out, bring in so real ruby players and coaches during training camp to teach these styles of tackling.

  20. I’ve never understood why helmets still have to have a hard shell on the outside. I swear it’s a cosmetic thing. Players love thier fierce loo0king weaponized head shells, but the Great Gazoo foam outer shell could negate some of that striking impact and make the game safer.

  21. Wait, what? The coach of “The Legion of Boom” is talking about rugby style tackling? Yeah, okay. The Seahawks are one of the hardest hitting teams in the NFL. I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing, but lauding Carroll for trying to change the game in terms of hitting/tackling technique is dumb. He’s being hypocritical.

  22. I didn’t know that, piratefreedom. I figured they didn’t have many die on-the-spot. Hence my archaic medicine comment.

    They need those helmets so they can have pitch black tinted visors. Ooooooo can’t take that away from them! Definitely have them practice and camp with no helmets. They will be so inclined to not lead with the head in regular season.

  23. Helmets need to be redesigned so guys don’t feel invincible and lead with their heads. Put guys in something more resembling a hockey or lacrosse helmet and they’d still be protected but couldn’t use the helmet as a weapon any more.

  24. I played rugby for many years. The rules in rugby state you must attempt to wrap with your arms as part of the tackle. You can’t just hit somebody and knock them down. But it is important to remember that rugby is just a running game, no forward passes.

  25. I been saying this for years. If you want to prevent head injuries you take the helmet off. Knuckle heads will stop leading with their heads.

  26. “No, helmets and extra padding did not make football more dangerous. In 1905, they didn’t wear any padding and had leather helmets and 15 people died playing football. (And Teddy Roosevelt threatened government intervention if the rules weren’t changed to make the game safer. )”


    I’m sick of people bringing this up in the pads/helmets debate.

    1. The notion that Teddy Roosevelt intervened and threatened to ban the sport based on the numbers of injuries and deaths is a myth that arose in the 40s. It was initially used as means to illustrate the brutality of the sport, but then to legitimize it as they were portrayed as having changed the rules under the guidance of a president. Roosevelt himself was fairly indifferent on the matter, and was proud that his son played the sport.

    2. Rule changes from 1905-15 years made the game safer, but none of those rule changes involved requirements for helmets or padding.

    3. The helmets that gradually gained popularity into the 30s and 40s were leather caps similar to those worn by some rugby players. They are not comparable to the huge plastic battering rams they wear now.

    4. Rugby had comparable death rates at that time and similarly showed a slow decline in death rates with rule changes, none of which involved protective gear.

  27. For sure the equipment has made things more dangerous. It has happened in hockey too. Now with everyone wearing hard plastic shoulder and elbow pads, blows with the elbow or shoulder are much more damaging.

    I agree with a poster above but would take it a step further; all persona protection equipment must have a softer outer shell. Worry about injury prevention, not looking cool.

  28. Played both sports in College:

    In Rugby – you tackle your opponent. You wrap up the body and put your head behind the tackler and twist and fall, taking the opponent down in the process.

    In football – you hit your opponent. You visualize the body you are hitting as being 2-3 yards behind where they actually are and drive through them. You create a collision as you drive through the tackle.

    Different sports all together. It’s gonna take a change at every level for this to stick.

    The best players are the ones that are apparently tackling “illegally”. You are taught to get to the ball as quickly as possible and separate the ball form the player. Now you have to settle and think about the “hitting zone” before trying to make a play. The big tackle of yesterday is now considered a penalty – “hitting a defenseless receiver”. Ronnie Lott would have been fined and suspended right out of this new League… *sigh*

  29. tippyteo says: Jul 30, 2014 1:27 PM

    “They need those helmets so they can have pitch black tinted visors. Ooooooo can’t take that away from them! …”

    You are glib, tippyteo. And that is me being polite.

    Players have to petition the league to wear visors. There has to be a legitimate medical reason to wear them.

    You would know that if you actually played the game beyond JV or something.

  30. Wow, long overdue.
    They should have the winning Super Bowl coach due a safety vid every year.

  31. The commish is a walking hypocrite… Says he cares about player safety and in the same sentence wants to shove an 18 game season down the players throats… Stay classy commish

  32. Great video.

    Anyone questioning the need to teach tackling at the highest level since it’s being done at a young age and should be a known ability by the NFL clearly hasn’t been to a high school or JR high level game in a while. I coach JR High level (grades 6, 7 and 8) and it’s down right disgusting how little effort is put into tackling drills by coaches. Poor and sometimes deadly technique from the 80’s and sometime 70’s is being taught because that’s how it’s always been done. Combine that with the head hunting garbage the NFL calsl tackling and kids aren’t seeing or being taught true tackling in any way what so ever.

    Head-up football and videos like this are crucial to the future of the game and the health of our children.

  33. With all the high target suspension articles over the past couple of years I must have made a dozen comments regarding using rugby as a guide for target and wrap guided tackling instruction and penalties. I was continuously donvoted and mocked. Pete Carroll says it and its a revelation…. Screw you guys, I’m going home

  34. You are correct harveyredman
    I actually played thru high school but that whole life thing stood in the way. How is your football career going, if I may ask? Because your beyond valuable insight leads me to believe you lived the dream

  35. I coached Youth Football at the 12U and 14U levels for 3 years. This is the age where the kids are moving on to play high school football. It is scary to see how little attention is paid to tackling and teaching proper techniques. My teams spent the first week of practice and a block of time in every practice working on proper tackling form, for both the defender and the ball carrier. And that is where the NFL has failed its players. They love to fine their defenders for head shots, but rarely take into consideration how ball carriers will often lower their heads into the hit and it results in a head to head hit. We teach our kids that both players need to lead with their shoulders, and that the defender needs to aim his facemask at the football. This nearly guarantees that his shoulder will make contact with the body of the ball carrier every time. It will also make sure that his head is up and seeing the hit.

  36. Awaiting the next video in the series where they teach CBs to get away with penalties on every play and techniques for discreet PED use.

  37. that form of tackling was the original intent. getting back to basics and the intended ways are the only thing that can save the NFL.

  38. I really hate Pete Carroll but gotta give credit where credit is due… This sounds like a sensible approach that doesnt detract from the game and should improve safety along with effectiveness.

  39. Wait, what? The coach of “The Legion of Boom” is talking about rugby style tackling? Yeah, okay. The Seahawks are one of the hardest hitting teams in the NFL. I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing, but lauding Carroll for trying to change the game in terms of hitting/tackling technique is dumb. He’s being hypocritical.

    The video does not say you refrain from hitting hard – even some of the examples were hard hits.
    The video simply states that you hit with your shoulder and then wrap.

    There’s a reason the Hawks are the best tackling team in the NFL.

    Ask Denver.

  40. Hiring Carroll/Schneider in Seattle may have been the singles best decision a sports team has made since they hired Don James at the UofW to coach the Huskies.

  41. Good idea. Take away that “blow guys up” mentality that leads to a ton of missed tackles and injuries. ESPN wont like it but its effective and smart.

  42. All of you who are saying they want helmets and pads gone…..go watch soccer or basketball. I know you all think you’re the safety police, but nobody wants to watch a game of flag football.

  43. Young men and boys who play football in the fall should be playing rugby in the spring.

    Not only does it teach them proper tackling techniques, it’s an incredible cardio workout, it teaches them field awareness, running in space, and good decision making.

    If I were a forward-thinking football coach at the high school level, I’d have my defensive coordinator run a rugby program in the spring, and strongly encourage all my underclassmen/JV players to turn out.

  44. You mean “form tackling”? Like the way everybody is initially taught to tackle when they start playing football? I CANNOT stand the stupid “launch yourself into the player with your head down” technique and then wonder why they missed the tackle and broke their neck.

  45. MostlyRight says: Jul 30, 2014 2:31 PM

    Awaiting the next video in the series where they teach CBs to get away with penalties on every play and techniques for discreet PED use.

    Obsess much?

  46. Love all the so called jr coaches posting here with the comments about how coaches don’t coach thier kids how to tackle proper…well then..teach your kids..

    best of all EVERYBODY on here posting how the league should change this and change that when it comes to tackling..but they ( and me) are the same ones who high five their boys at the bar when their teams player knocks some rival teams WR / RB/ QB head off. I’ve been watching the NFL since 1977. This concussion thing has only been cried about for the last couple yrs..I still cheer when My player gives a rival team player snot bubbles…this is football, not tennis

  47. At least they used a sport as an example that is not is not related to synchronized swimming.

  48. Great video, i am 50 years old and was taught to tackle with shoulders and arms at the hips.Players want the big hit not the tackle,bringing the player down is the criteria.I never watched the game for the paralyzing hits.

  49. I blame, in part, ESPN and NFL films for creating the highlight reel hit. Players want the big hit where everyone cringes and oooohs and aaaahs so they can get on TV.

  50. As a person who has played several years of both American Football and Rugby Union (and they are BOTH very rough sports) . . . the style of tackling in rugby *IS* safer . . . because people don’t use an unprotected head like a “missile.” Love him or hate him . . . Carroll is on to a good idea with this. And the League is going to love it.

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