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Football: New tackling restrictions create uncertainty for early games

Football: New tackling restrictions create uncertainty for early games
Crespi players work on tackling techique during practice. (Eric Sondheimer)

"Weird."

That was the word used by Encino Crespi Coach Troy Thomas last week as he watched his football team practice without tackling. His linemen were holding bags while blocking. He had to yell out, "Tag him," when a defender tried to take down a ballcarrier.

Across Southern California and around the state, teams continue to adjust to a new CIF rule restricting full-contact tackling to two days a week and no more than 90 minutes in a practice.
So far, most coaches are not complaining about the restrictions -- as long as everyone is adhering
to the rule.

But there's uncertainty how the rule will affect games, especially early in the season.

Opening games are set for next weekend. Scrimmages will take on increased importance on Thursday and Friday as coaches evaluate how well players are tackling in their first experience against opponents.

Some believe experienced players will have an advantage early in the season with the limited tackling practices, but young players should develop with more tackling drills as the season progresses.

"Our training camp is a lot different," Moorpark Coach Tim Lins said. "We're up on our feet. We're doing a lot more walk throughs and limiting our full contact. Our league is at the end of our season, so it could be a good thing."

The tackling restrictions are designed to lower the risk of concussions and other injuries during practice.

"We're spending more time teaching the fundamentals of tackling," Lins said.

Advantage could be with the defenses early in the season, because blockers are still learning to block. Fumbles could increase as players get hit pretty hard for the first time.

Perhaps the most interesting games will be at the freshman level, where players who have never played football before and have done limited tackling drills will get their first exposure to game situations.

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