As the NFL has worked diligently to make the game safer, it’s becoming harder to prepare players for playing the game. Specifically, it’s becoming harder to teach them to tackle.
Browns coach Freddie Kitchens spent some time on Saturday explaining the balance that teams now have to strike between keeping players healthy and making sure they’ll be ready to play.
“I think so, of course,” Kitchens told reporters on Saturday regarding whether the lack of live tackling to the ground in practice has made it harder to teach players how to tackle to the ground during games. “I think everything is set up for not tackling and you kind of have to make an exception. That is the reason you are asking me this question, right? Because the norm is not to tackle. When you play at FirstEnergy Stadium in September, the norm should be to tackle. It does not equate so, yes, there will be tackling [in practice]. I do think that across the league there are some problems, but listen, there are some issues that you need to make sure you teach them how to tackle, too. It has a lot to do with the technique, teaching them how to tackle and I think we are getting the best of both worlds without putting anybody in unnecessary risk of injury by making sure their pad level is down or if he keeps moving and their arms go around him, not out.”
Kitchens said that the Browns will have live tackling in some of their practices, but that he hasn’t decided which practices will entail that technique.
“I have not decided,” Kitchens said. “Some of it may depend on how the practice is going. I do not know. Defensively, they are still going to thud up on the back and I am going to know that they would have made that tackle. . . . That is part of the process of learning how to practice is trying to avoid unnecessary injury but still get your work done in a physical nature with the proper technique. That is what we are trying to teach right now is how to practice because we have to continue to get better every time we got onto the field. Every time the ball is snapped, we need to get better. The only way you are going to do that is to practice being better. I think we are trying to learn how to do that right now.”
The Browns need to practice being better in many respects, if they hope to make good on expectations that have gone through the roof, even though the Browns haven’t had a winning record since 2007.