Coaching can often be a Catch-22 business, and the issue of tackling can be the Catch-22-iest of all Catch-22s. Don’t tackle enough in practice and you get beat up on game day. Tackle too much and you beat yourself up before game day even arrives.
Freddie Kitchens is making that decision for this first time in his career, as the 44-year-old, first-time head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Speaking to reporters over the weekend, Kitchens thought he had the balance figured out.
“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?,” Kitchens said, via PFT. “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.”
There is no master plan of tackling and non-tackling practice among the Browns coaches. Kitchens said he’ll go by feel.
“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.”
In a way, tackling is the most important issue Kitchens will tackle — get it? — as a first-time head coach, and yet the answer of whether the Browns tackled the right amount in training camp won’t truly reveal itself until the regular season arrives.