By KEITH WHITMIRE
To hit or not to hit, that’s the question that arises every summer in Cowboys training camps under Wade Phillips.
Whether in training camp, OTAs or just a weekday practice, Phillips doesn’t believe in tackling during workouts. Ballcarriers might get bumped, but they aren’t taken to the ground.
“I don’t believe in full tackling, no, because of the chance of getting injured,” Phillips said. “We don’t play the Dallas Cowboys.”
It’s a reversal from the Jimmy Johnson days when the Cowboys would get physical in practice.
Some teams beat each other up, others play touch football in training camp. Both methods have led to success.
“This is my 34th training camp,” Phillips said. “I think I’ve learned a lot, as least how I want to do it after seeing it a lot of different ways. My dad, we never went full pads, ever.
“When I was with Buddy Ryan, we tackled every day. With Marv Levy, the players took their golf clubs to training camp because they were through in the afternoon, playing golf every day.”
It makes sense to avoid the rough stuff in practice. Players get bruised and battered enough in games.
The no-contact policy only becomes an issue when the Cowboys miss tackles. They say you play like you practice, but the Cowboys don’t practice tackling.
“I don’t think it leads to poor tackling,” Phillips said. “We have preseason games….Part of it is teaching tackling. The approach to tackling is really the key thing. We do different things as far as tackling is concerned.”
The Phillips philosophy is that players who reach the NFL already know how to bring ballcarriers down. They’ve proven their toughness by now.
What Phillips’ staff teaches is proper pursuit angles, how to break down, positioning. It’s the finer art of the most brutal aspect of the sport.
But as for knocking heads just to feel good about themselves, Phillips doesn’t buy into that.
Or, as he put it, “I don’t believe in thuddin’ em.”