Tackling a player by the hair is legal, not a horse-collar tackle

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On Sunday Washington running back Rob Kelley ran for 45 yards before he was caught from behind by Philadelphia defensive back Rodney McLeod, who grabbed Kelley’s long dreadlocks and yanked him down by the hair. An official threw a flag for a horse-collar tackle.

But after a conference, the referee announced that there was no foul on the play. And NFL V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino said in a video distributed to the media today that the officials made the right decision by not calling a penalty.

“The issue is whether he grabs inside the collar or the shoulder pad, grabs the jersey at the name plate or above, or grabs the hair,” Blandino said. “You could see the player actually grabs the hair, not the back of the jersey at the nameplate and not inside the collar. Grabbing the hair and pulling the runner toward the ground is legal.”

Players who choose to wear their hair long enough that it hangs out the backs of their helmets need to beware: That hair is fair game for any opponent who wants to pull it.

77 responses to “Tackling a player by the hair is legal, not a horse-collar tackle

  1. Hair should be short enough to fit under the helmet or otherwise controlled.
    Tackling by the hair can cause as much damage as a horse collar tackle.

  2. For a league claiming to be looking out for player safety and integrity, allowing tackles that force someone’s neck into hyper-extension doesn’t sound very safe.

  3. good. you play football with long hair, that’s your problem. if you don’t like it, cut your hair short!

  4. You can yank a players head back by his hair to tackle him and potentially injure him, but you can’t flip the ball over the goalposts without getting fined and penalized. Smart.

  5. Wow, so from the comments…..a player should just grow his hair as long as possible, have it hang over his back and sides and front if he can do it, to make him impossible to be grabbed anywhere above the waist. Gotta love this new sport we are watching…..in between all the cialis, viagra, and beer n vodka commercials.

  6. Players with long hair who leave their hair outside their helmet do it at their own risk.

    It’s a nonstandard addition to the ‘uniform’/playing gear, so to penalize players for accidentally (or otherwise) grabbing hair is not fair and could be a competitive advantage to have it then.

    The safest thing to do would be to prohibit long hair outside the helmet, but then players would complain, the ‘No Fun League’ comments would ensue, etc. So do it if you want, but at your own risk.

  7. UPDATE: It’s still okay to do that to wives/girlfriends but it’s a penalty, fine and suspension to do it to players on the field. The NFL regrets any confusion the initial response may have caused.

  8. The general reaction to this is: “he’s the one who decided to have long hair. He can always cut it if he doesn’t like being tackled by it.”

    I agree with this. The logic is interesting though. Because he voluntarily made this dangerous choice, he can deal with the consequences.

    Playing football is also a voluntary dangerous choice. I’m all for player safety within reason but I’d say the league has done enough. I fear they think we have much further to go. If you don’t want to put yourself at risk of getting seriously injured, play tennis.

  9. I have no idea why guys wear that fake horse hair…it just looks silly

    ps- same with Clay Matthews….divas

  10. Umm this has been common knowledge, at least to me, since Ricky Williams was running wild in Miami 15 years ago. But hey, thanks for the reminder?

    Is a field goal still worth 3 points?

  11. Why is this news? This was a rule all the way back when I played pee-wee. At that time, rat tails were big. coaches used to always tell us, if you see it, grab it and yank as hard as you can

    Pro football is much more of a “botherhood” than it was 20 years ago, and more than any youth league could possibly be. So guys just don’t do it, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed

  12. straightfactshomie says:
    Oct 21, 2016 7:11 PM

    Is a field goal still worth 3 points?

    For now.

  13. I’d rip it right out of their heads. Just on principle, because it looks ridiculous and effeminate.

  14. Put the hair in a net or a cap and keep it inside the helmet. Would if that would have been the game deciding play, and the long hair cost the team the win? There are a lot of businesses that require hair nets, etc. But player safety is the number one issue. Sometimes people aren’t smart enough to protect themselves, so we have helmet laws, seatbelt, no texting while driving laws, etc., for those folks. The NFL should definitely have a long hair law before someone gets a serious neck injury. They don’t have to cut it off. Just keep it tucked inside, for their own safety. The league has to know that this is a serious safety risk, and it looks like they don’t care. Player safety has to be #1.

  15. You guys who think the league should make these guys cut their hair are idiots.. sure they can get hurt, they are playing a violent game. It’s up to them if they want to accept the additional risk that comes with long hair. Many would prefer to take the risk to maintain their identity. It’s not the leagues job to police hair cuts..

  16. When the front page headlines of PFT are 100% about fines, suspensions, injuries and rule clarifications, you know the league is in massive trouble. And they are wondering why ratings are down. LOL.

  17. Until someone gets a good grip of some blonde hair.

    Thanks Colin K. How liberal of you to ensure this has to be about race.
    Whoa dude!…. I was just making a funny comment. But I’m wondering why it hasn’t happened yet…you see it outside of their helmets all the time. And if they would support a flag if it were to happen. One day we will find out though. Believe me.

  18. People like you make me laugh. Very much in the same way Donald Trump does. Always with the “liberal! Loberal! Liberal!” Give it a rest dude. You sound like a crazy tea party member.

  19. “Almost cut my hair.
    It happened just the other day.
    Its getting kinda long.
    Could have said it was in my way,
    But I didn’t and I wonder why.
    Feel like letting my freak flag fly.
    Yes, I feel like I owe it to someone.”

    For us ‘old folks’…. 😉

  20. “After reviewing the play, it has been decided that there was no foul on the play. It was actually kind of funny when we watched it up in the booth. Down and yardage remain the same.”.

  21. It doesn’t say much for an individuals intelligence if they put an extra 24 inch tackling handle on their back. I AM NOT A RACIST. Get over the dreadlocks!!!!!

  22. mmack66 says:
    Oct 21, 2016 7:23 PM
    straightfactshomie says:
    Oct 21, 2016 7:11 PM

    Is a field goal still worth 3 points?

    For now.

    And only in REAL football. Fantasy experts will tell you otherwise depending upon given league rules.

  23. To bad the officials can’t get this rule, seeing the Miami Pittsburgh game in my area two horse collars not called yet many flags thrown for standing over a player. To many rules and to many crews not consistent in calling the rules.

  24. This rule won’t change until one of the star QB’s in the league has dreadlocks or Brady starts wearing hair extensions .. it only matters if QB’s get hurt remember

  25. They haven’t called a horse collar tackle correctly in years.
    The real horse collar was made famous by Roy Williams of the Cowboys.

    The reason why it was outlawed was because he would grab the back of the pads at the collar while chasing someone from behind or the side and yank it downwards while leaving his feet and so his body would create violent leverage while rolling up the opposing players legs thereby breaking bones or tearing ligaments in the knees and ankles.

    The fact that the NFL can’t get this straight is comical.

  26. All guys should just agree to get their head shaved. Just think of how much easier life would be.

  27. The defensive player still fell on the back of the runner’s legs. I thought the horse collar was outlawed due to that impact. It’s the same here. That’s why the official initially threw the flag. He should have stood his ground because the tackle itself was dangerous. If a player chop blocks an opponent, they don’t care how it was done. The effect is the same. The effect of that tackle was the same as a horse collar.

  28. Lets hope more players get the weaves torn out of their head! They are all starting to look more like women then men! Pull and jerk the crap out of their head! Teams need to get control of these ladies!!

  29. In any tackle the officials have discretion to penalize any action deemed unnecessary. I’m sure some officials would be comfortable throwing a UR flag for a player deliberately grabbing a player by the hair seemingly in an effort to cause injury. But in the flow of the game, guys do get handfuls of hair from time to time. You can’t penalize that.

  30. The reason they don’t consider it a horse-collar is because long hair can block players from grabbing legal tackle zones. Thus, if you could nto tackle from the hair, it would give competitive advantage to players with long hair.

    This rule has been this way for nearly two decades now. It’s also why you see mroe defensive players with dreads and long hair than offensive players, since they are less likely to have possession and thus have it be an issue.

  31. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, let them do what ever they want, and deal with the down side of it. I don’t care to see it, so I can change the channel, or watch it, I will watch my team, not so much any other game. Years ago I would be mad if I had to work on a Sunday, not now, just record the game and watch it later. Bill…DVR saves me from the time outs and bad commercials…..

  32. The shocking thing about this article is that the NFL allows the players to wear long hair. Rog must be losing it. The NFL controls everything. Our boys should all have crew cuts and no facial hair. Right Rog?

  33. The fans watching new the rule but Happy the Clown in stripes didn’t. Every week things happen in games that leave fans wondering how officials hold down day jobs.

  34. If I work in a factory (when such existed before Democrat policies drove most to Mexico and China) with a machine that could injure me if my hair got caught in it you can bet that it would be a requirement that I have short hair or it was completely covered.

    Tell players — black and white — hair cannot be so long that it extends from the helmet to touch the shoulder pads. Problem solved and future injury avoided.

  35. I wouldn’t risk it. Who knows if the hair has been properly deloused? Freeze frame a Clay Matthews’ shampoo commercial at the point where he flips his wet hair behind him, and you’ll see what appears to be tens of thousands of lice flying off his head. No thanks, I don’t want a handful of that.

  36. It would have been funny if the defender just got a yard of hair and the runner scored, lol.

    Yep, I got a touchdown, but I got no hair, lol.

  37. I remember a high school wrestling coach threatening to take me down and shave my head if he ever caught me brushing my hair out of my eyes during a match…I shaved my own head.

    Do NFL coaches just suggest a good stylist?

  38. Polamalu didn’t have a problem playing with long hair or getting tackled by his hair…His actually looked good…Last time I checked, none of these players were Samson, so long hair or not, if you’re a good player, you’re a good player (Ricky Williams was good with the dreadlocks, and even better after he shaved bald).

  39. I have no problem with long hair or dreadlocks in general, but dude. Football players? You’d have to be crazy to grow your hair out like that. There’s a video out there of a college player having a dread ripped right out of his head as he runs down the field. Why would you give someone the opportunity to do that to you?

  40. If my hair was going to cost me a few touchdowns or a few yards every game, I think I would find a way to tuck it under the helmet, down in my shirt or just get it all cut off. I get trying to look good for the ladies, but shave your head and go buy a wig.

  41. A wig won’t work. When the ladies like to run their fingers through the guy’s hair, it may come off. How embarrassing would that be?

  42. I was a ‘long hair’ in college. During a flag football game, I badly beat an OT for an easy ‘sack’ when he pulled me down from behind by my hair. Let me tell you I fought that dude. Hurt like hell should be off limits.

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