Connect with us

Rules School

It’s not a horse-collar if you grab the mane



Last year, we wondered (in a pun-filled headline) if a pull of an opponent’s long hair could be one of the elements of an illegal horse-collar tackle. One of the criteria of a horse-collar tackle is to grab a player from the shoulder area and pull him backwards. But, if long hair gets in the way of the horse-collar area, that doesn’t mean a hair tackle is illegal by — forgive the pun — extension.

Referee Mike Carey took any question of that interpretation off the table on Sunday on a tackle by the Jared Cook of the Titans. Cook tackled Rashean Mathis on a special-teams play by grabbing a handful of hair. Carey said the penalty flag on the play was being picked up:

There is no foul for a horse-collar. The runner was grabbed by the hair which is legal. The half is over.

Seeing as long hair could be grabbed by an opponent, you would think that a coach would ban their players from having their locks flowing from the back of the helmet.

Not so fast, coach. Buried in the 301-page collective bargaining agreement between the players and the NFL, is this little nugget in Article 49, Section 2:

Personal Appearance: Clubs may make and enforce reasonable rules governing players’ appearance on the field and in public places while representing the Clubs; provided, however, that no player will be disciplined because of hair length or facial hair.

Photo: Mathis in a 2009 by Erjenkins1 via Wikipedia

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)