RICHMOND—It happened to Antonio Gibson in Week 1.
The rookie running back was trying to break free, when suddenly he felt himself being pulled back. Eagles defender Josh Sweat had a grip on Gibson’s undershirt and wasn’t letting go.
“I saw it on tape, like, he actually pulled himself into me,” Gibson said. “I was kind of shocked by that.
“It was like somebody pulling against you, like sled pulls or something like that. I was just digging to get away and I couldn’t get that burst. I definitely felt it.”
In Week 2 Kevin Pierre-Louis repaid the favor, bringing down Arizona’s Kenyan Drake.
Then it was Dwayne Haskins’ turn in Week 3. The Washington quarterback was tackled by the shirt while scrambling and had to get a new one on the sideline.
What is going on here?
“I would recommend the guys tuck them in,” Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “If I’m an offensive guy, I’d have my shirt tucked in so you can’t get it.”
Asking around, it appears to be more coincidence than anything that this is happening to the Washington Football Team, both ways, at such an alarming rate.
Other NFL writers are not reporting a rise in shirt-related tackles, nor is the equipment new this year.
A Nike spokesman said it’s hard to know exactly what was being worn by each player, but it was likely the Nike Pro Top shirts ($30 on the company’s online store).
Players usually wear at least one shirt under their shoulder pads—some players prefer a regular T-shirt and some prefer the Dri Fit technology, which allows the pads to slide freely.
Whichever the choice, there’s an easy solution here: tuck it in.
Here’s Haskins in Week 3, with his shirt untucked, providing an easy target.
Similarly, here is running back Peyton Barber (no tuck) and Steven Sims (tucked)
Offensive coordinator Scott Turner was not amused when it happened to his team a second time.
“That’s been addressed,” he said. “It was addressed when it happened the first time with Antonio, and now it has been even more strongly addressed, and I would not—I hope that doesn’t happen again. This game’s hard enough already. Don’t give them something else to hold on to.”
Another solution is to wear a shorter shirt underneath the jersey, like Logan Thomas is here.
While it’s extremely unusual for a team to be a part of four shirt tackles in a three-week span, it’s not an unprecedented event in NFL history.
In fact, teams used to wear loose-fitting jerseys, allowing defenders to grab at the uniform itself.
Here’s Mel Blount tackling Earl Campbell in 1979—Campbell often lost pieces of his jersey while eluding defenders.
Jim Plunkett met a similar fate against the Jets in 1971.
As for Gibson, he vows not to get brought down by the shirt in the future. He said after Week 1 he’d be changing undershirts so it didn’t happen again.
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