A lot of people think that the Cleveland Browns made a stupid decision when they drafted cornerback Denzel Ward with the fourth-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft when Bradley Chubb, regarded as the premiere pass-rusher of the class, was still available.
Now, apparently, that stupid decision makes stupid decisions. The rookie is currently sidelined with back spasms, and according to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, those spasms are caused by the “stupid” way that he tackles.
While Williams expressed relief that his young cornerback did not suffer a serious injury, he did say that “maybe he’ll finally listen to me and stop doing those stupid things the way he’s trying to tackle and tackle the way I tell him to tackle and he won’t get hurt”.
It’s probably at this point that I should bring up the fact that this is a sensitive topic for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans in light of the career-threatening spinal injury that linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered last season, which ostensibly was largely attributable to the manner in which he tackled, in general and on that particular play.
In other words, this is not just a light and jovial conversation. There really are stupid ways to tackle, and the sooner that players learn that, the better it is for everybody involved in the game. Tackling with poor technique exposes both your opponents and yourself to a greater risk of injury. ‘Safe’ tackling also has a better success rate of actually getting the player on the ground.
“I think this was a good enough shock that maybe he thinks that I might know what I’m talking about”, Ward’s defensive coordinator said. Frankly, it would be nice if this could be used as a teaching moment around the league.
Perhaps young players should be shown footage of athletes causing themselves injuries because of the way that they play. I don’t know how else to clearly communicate to young athletes that there is a reason tackling is to be taught a certain way. It might not look as cool, and it might take work to get it right, but it’s the product of over a century of accumulated knowledge about how to play the game.
Ward has already missed time this offseason with multiple different injuries in general, most of which cannot be attributed to poor tackling form, since they only started tackling in training camp. But the point stands all the same.