Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Horse Collar Tackle

Posted by Elyse Bruce on November 4, 2013

What would football or rugby be without perfect tackles, high tackles, diving tackles, grass cutter tackles, broken tackles, slam tackles, and wing tackles? But one tackle that’s been banned in the last ten years by the National Football League (NFL), the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the horse collar tackle.

So what exactly is a horse collar tackle? When the defender reaches a hand inside the ball carrier’s collar by their necks from behind and pulls the player down, that’s a horse collar tackle. The dangers associated with this kind of tackle are that it can cause severe injuries to the tackled player’s neck, broken legs and ankles, and tears to ligaments in the knees and ankles.

The rule instituted in 2005 that forbids the use of the horse collar tackle was euphemistically referred to as the “Roy Williams Rule” due in large part to the fact that the 2004 NFL season saw 6 major injuries thanks to horse collar tackles. Four of those six major injuries were a result of Roy Williams’ horse collar tackles. On May 23, 2005 and as reported in a number of newspapers including the May 25, 2005 edition of the Lewiston Tribune, owners of NFL teams voted 27 to 5 to ban the tackle. The 5 times that didn’t want it banned were the Dallas Cowboys (the team with Roy Williams), the Detroit Lions, the New England Patriots, the New Orleans Saints, and the San Francisco 49ers. In the Lewiston Tribune the Associated Press story entitled, “Owners Prohibit Horse Collar Tackle” the article stated in part:

The owners’ only definitive action was the 27-5 vote to ban the horse collar tackle, in which a defender grabs the back inside of an opponent’s shoulder pads and yanks the player down. Dallas safety Roy Williams does the tackle as well as anybody, but he seriously injured All-Pro received Terell Owens of Philadelphia with the maneuver last season.

On August 28, 2013 Jaimie Uribe of Fort Lauderdale, under the headline “Around The League” posted this to his Google Plus account:

Can’t hit high, cant hit low, cant hit from the blindside, cant hit with unnecessary force, cant grab from the horse collar, can’t grab from the facemask, cant hit with the arm, helmet, or shoulder, oh yeah, and can’t trip someone either as that is just too rough. Is the NFL one rule away from jumping the shark?

Now the game of football (more or less as we know it) in America has been around since 1889 and the rules have evolved ever since. In 1974, there were serious changes in the rules to add action, color and tempo to the games. Four years later, more rule changes were made, this time permitting a defender to maintain contact with a receiver within five yards of scrimmage. Restricted contact was allowed after that point.

But nowhere in all the research done was Idiomation able to identify when horse collar tackle was first used. ¬†Idiomation’s best guess is that it was some time after 1978 and before 2000. If readers or visitors have additional links they can provide to help pin point the origin of the expression, please post them in the Comments section below.

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