Why Do NFL Players Stop When Tackled?

As a rugby union aficionado, I am perplexed why gridirion players stop and give up when tackled. If held that makes sense, but knocked down and able to run again - why stop??

Come now, you don’t actually expect those pad and helmet wearing sissies to actually you know “continued once hit” somebody might get hurt!:smiley: :wink:

On a serious note, I think once a ball carrier is tackled, the rules are that the game stops, unless the ball is dropped (?).

Play ends when the player with the ball is “tackled” (touched by an opposing player and their knee/butt/elbow etc touches the ground). Gotta give the ball back to an official to reset play and start again.

Very simply because that ends the play and the ball is considered dead at that point.

Why does a baseball player stop running when the guy holding the ball tags him? Because the rules of the game say so.

Yes, as magnusblitz said (great username to be answering a football question, by the way) they stop not because they’re tackled but because the play is dead because their knee touched the ground, or a number of other reasons. Sometimes a strong player will keep running for a few yards with three guys hanging off him trying to bring him down. Or sometimes it’ll look like he’s tackled but he’ll get back up and keep running because he stumbled but didn’t completely hit the ground.

So rugby rules are different I take it? A player can be tackled and brought to the ground but he can keep going if he manages to get himself free?

It comes down to safety, really.

Gridiron football has always been an incredibly violent sport, with fatalities a common occurrence in the early years.

Rules have since been and continue to be adjusted to reduce injuries.

The rule was once that a player had to be totally immobilized to be considered “tackled”. This rule has since been relaxed in a number of ways to prevent injuries to get us to today’s tackling rules.

And, for the most part, it’s worked. The fundamentals of the game are still largely the same, only people don’t suffer quite as many broken bones (though still quite a few) and very few fatalities (the majority being heat related deaths during summer months).

Just to elaborate a bit, for the OP’s benefit:

If any part of the ballcarrier’s body, other than his hands or feet, touches the ground, and a defensive player is touching him at that moment, the ballcarrier is “down”, and the play is dead at that point.

Similarly, if a defender hits the ballcarrier, and, as a direct result of that hit, the ballcarrier falls to the ground (i.e., any part of his body other than his hands or feet hit the ground), the play is dead, even if the defender is no longer in physical contact with the ballcarrier.

Edit: Also, in the NFL, if the quarterback is running with the ball beyond the line of scrimmage, he’s allowed to “slide” down, and the play is blown dead, even if the QB isn’t touched by a defender. A QB who slides can no longer be hit by a defender – if a defender hits such a QB, it’s an unnecessary roughness penalty. And, even if the QB isn’t touched, once he slides, he can’t get up and run again.

I sort of understand but cannot grasp the reasons. In rugby union if a tackled player hits the ground and stops, then he has to release the ball - which he can pass to another player. But if he continues his momentum and stands up, he can keep running.

To be fair, it is a fine distinction in theory but obvious enough in play.

I like American football and in my humble opinion running further with the ball would enhance the game.

It’s simply a different game with different rules. How would you count the four downs each team gets to advance ten yards if a player could just hop back up? Rugby is a continuous game, American Football is a discrete game.

It would totally change the game – basically it wouldn’t be American football (or gridiron) any more. One of the biggest parts of American football is planning and executing plays with the utmost precision (e.g. receivers run a precise route; QB throws the ball at a precise time and place; linemen block in precise positions; etc.). Only a few seconds can be reliably planned and executed – after 5 seconds or so, there are to many random variables and changes to reliably plan what’s going to happen, and then players must improvise. If plays always lasted much longer than 5 or 10 seconds, then planning and executing plays with precision would cease to be nearly as important as it is now.

Tackling this thread and dragging it over to the Game Room.

I would admire the perseverance of anyone who got up and kept running, but the rules are the rules, and the ball is dead, and the play is done.

Admittedly, that wouldn’t stop certain politicians I can think of, but football hasn’t reached that point yet…

I believe that is true of any player with the ball, though I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other player do so. Also in the backfield, if you deliberately touch one knee to the ground they blow the play dead. That is seen mostly at the end of the game or half when running out the clock.

I don’t believe so. The rule that the tackler must be in contact with the ball carrier when he is downed began sometime in the late 50s. I definitely recall seeing games before it was not in force. You had to tackle and not simply ballistically launch yourself at the ball carrier to knock him over. The game was in that regard safer and not fundamentally different then. If you mean the game would be different if a player obviously stopped and held down would keep trying to advance or lateral the ball, then yes it would be a different game.

Why don’t rugby union players pass the ball forward?

Watching the Wisconsin / Iowa college game right now, and that reminded me of this: in college football (and, I presume, high school, as well), if the ballcarrier falls to the ground (or a knee hits the ground, or whatever), he’s automatically considered “down”, and the play ends, regardless of whether he’s been touched by a defender.

Bo Jackson was so strong and fast that his momentum kept him moving after a tackle. The result was a hip injury that ended his career. It seems a pretty good tradeoff to have plays end on a tackle so that your best athletes can have slightly longer careers.

As others have mentioned, that’s just the rule. American football shares a lot in common with rugby but they’re different sports. Asking why gridiron ball carriers have to stop when tackled is like asking why soccer players can’t use their hands or basketball players get to shoot free throws when fouled or why baseball players are “out” just because some schmuck with the ball in his glove touched them.

If you kept all other rules the same but players were allowed to keep running until their momentum was stopped, I really believe the final scores of football games would be something like 240-220.

Yes, that’s just college and high school rules – in the NFL, if a player goes down (or knee hits the ground) but is not the result of contact and is not “touched” while down, then he can get back up and keep running.

I don’t see it changing much. If anything scoring may go down because the clock will run out faster as ball carriers inch forward without significant gains. And you’ll have either a lot more injuries or a lot more penalties as defenseless players are hit on the ground to stop potential forward progress.