Raiders' Kenyan Drake on Injury: NFL Needs to Protect Players from 'Illegal' Tackles

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 6, 2021

Washington Football Team's Daniel Wise (92), Deshazor Everett (22) and Jamin Davis (52) tackle Las Vegas Raiders running back Kenyan Drake (23) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
AP Photo/David Becker

Las Vegas Raiders running back Kenyan Drake called for the NFL to review its rules on tackling after he reportedly suffered a season-ending injury in Sunday's 17-15 loss to the Washington Football Team.

Drake tweeted about the play in which he broke his ankle, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:

"The #NFL needs to look at this specific style of tackling. They are throwing flags for taunting and protecting qbs from getting touched but this is my 2nd straight season being injured by a guy pulling me back and using his body weight to roll up my legs. If the emphasis is to protect the players this should be an illegal form of tackling like a horse collar. We lose players weekly to high ankle sprains and broken bones but the league would rather flag players for erroneous taunting penalties. Let’s get the priorities together."

In 2005, the NFL moved to penalize horse-collar tackles in part because multiple players were injured from that style of tackling in the preceding season. Perhaps a similar step will be forthcoming if more players echo Drake's sentiment.

As the 27-year-old alluded to, he suffered a high ankle sprain midway through the 2020 season. He ultimately only missed one game.

With his season apparently over, his frustration Sunday was understandable.

When the NFL made efforts to limit and penalize helmet-to-helmet contact, some feared an unintended consequence was that defenders would begin targeting offensive players below the waist instead. That, in turn, would potentially increase the number of significant knee and ankle injuries.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Rob Gronkowski stated in 2015 that he'd rather suffer a concussion over a major knee injury. He cited the typically shorter recovery time for a concussion and the possible long-term consequences to his career by blowing out his knee.

Addressing injury data from a unique 2020 preseason—one impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic—the NFL said how it was generally utilizing "multi-year injury reduction strategies designed to reduce knee ligament injuries, ankle injuries and soft-tissue strains."

Likely to that end, the NFL approved for the 2021 season a new change expanding the zone in which players on both sides of the ball are prohibited from blocking below the waist.

Washington Football Team defensive tackle Daniel Wise didn't appear to be aiming specifically for Drake's ankle, nor did his motion appear to be unnatural in bringing Drake to the turf.

However, the play in question could serve as an example if the competition committee wants to take Drake's suggestion on board.