(Rod Woodson cover photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)
(Rod Woodson above photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Good news for the Oakland Raiders: The Cal rugby team last weekend won its fourth straight Collegiate 7’s national championship.
So what? So Cal is just up the road from Oakland, which means if the Raiders are as serious as they say about improving their tackling they should get in their cars and drive to Berkeley. Look, rugby is all about tackling, and the Raiders’ tacklers are all about rugby … or at least that's what we've been told
So put them in touch with the best in the business, the University of California at Berkeley, and see what happens. I mean, it can’t hurt, and Woodson, a Hall-of-Fame defensive back, likes the idea.
Now a secondary coach with the Raiders, Woodson is a big believer of tackling the rugby way. So are the Raiders, who teach it to their players, and if you’ve ever seen a rugby game you can understand why. Tacklers make sure their heads are tucked behind the opponent’s body before wrapping their arms around a ballcarrier’s legs and driving through tackles.
Essentially, it takes the head out of tackling -- a safer and more efficient technique that has become popular with collegiate programs and was taken to the pros by Seattle’s Pete Carroll.
“If you think about the old-school way of tackling,” Woodson said on a recent Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “the old-school way of tackling was taking your near hip and near shoulder and attacking his upfield hip and shoulder. And your head was across whoever the ballcarrier was -- a receiver or a running back. And a lot of times, what would happen is that once he would put his head was in front and down and your head was down … they’re going to collide.
“But if you go back into the rugby tackle, which we’ve been preaching here the last two years that we’ve been here … and if you go back and watch any rugby videos on You Tube or Google it up .... you’re going to see guys who play with no pads, no helmets and maybe a little soft pad on their heads and they’re tackling with their near hip to the ballcarrier’s near hip or shoulder or pec (pectoral). His head is behind the ball, and it’s kind of a shoulder punch tackle.”
“The tackles are just as vicious, just as hard, and you get the guy down,” said Woodson. “But the upside of it is that your head is behind the tackler, and the ballcarrier’s head is in front of him. So that head-to-head collision is going to occur less.
“I think our guys … it was kind of different for them early … but our guys have really bought into it, and we’ve become a pretty good tackling football team, especially in the open space.”
And that’s where Cal comes in. The Golden Bears have won 31 national rugby championships, and this season became the first collegiate team in history to win national titles in the 7s and 15s in the same year. Their coach, Jack Clark, not only is the former head coach and general manager of the U.S. national rugby team but two years ago was inducted into the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame.
Bottom line: The Raiders are ideally located to improve their tackling, with Clark and his Cal team within an easy commute up the Nimitz Freeway. Putting them in touch with a Raiders' team that needs to improve its tackling and its defense makes too much sense not to happen.
“I’m glad you told me,” Woodson said to us. “Maybe I can look him up … reach out to him and see if he can come over and talk to our guys.”
I would. In fact, I’d make the call today.