By Tommy Rezac
Mike Riley made the joke after Thursday’s practice at the Hawks Championship Center that the team had spent time this week “working on rugby tackling.”
This comes after defensive coordinator Bob Diaco spent the better part of 25 minutes on Tuesday talking about how the rugby-style of tackling “mandated by the administration” under former defensive coordinator Mark Banker in 2016 led to players being “spectacularly frustrated” when working on tackling drills in the spring.
Riley said that a year or two ago, the staff hired Atavus, a Seattle-based group made up of current and former players and coaches that help teach rugby-style tackling.
“They made a presentation to us, and then we went forward with it and coached,” Riley said. “I thought the basic idea about it was good. Then, in hiring a new defensive coach, for the most part, the same tenants (in tackling) hold true: safe and better. Just in a little different form.”
“It’s really just, I think, a different idea about the best way to tackle that still maintains the safety for the player. I have been, frankly, really impressed with the teaching of tackling that our coaches have done since spring practice. You could go back and forth with it 50-50 across the country with (Diaco’s) argument you just heard.”
Coach Riley confirmed one thing: the rugby-style tackling was not directly handed down from administration.
“That did not happen,” Riley said. “We all looked into it, and with their support, we brought (Atavus) in.”
Riley said he wasn’t “worried about the rest of it” when it came to Diaco’s Tuesday comments, though he mentioned he didn’t know all of the specifics of what he said.
Hear his full Tuesday audio here:
Jr. LB Luke Gifford (hip) and So. CB Eric Lee (concussion protocol) are both ruled out for Saturday. Jr. safety Antonio Reed (knee) is likely to play, if not start. Jr. safety Aaron Williams (neck) will suit and travel with the team. Riley is hopeful that he’ll get to play some against Minnesota.
“Aaron Williams had a little setback during the week, but he will travel, he will dress, we are hopeful that in 48 hours he’ll be able to play, but maybe not on a full-time basis.”
Elsewhere, Fr. RB Jaylin Bradley (ankle) has practiced this week and will travel with the team. Sr. LB Chris Weber (stinger) has practiced this week, but it’s unknown if he’ll play. He practiced Thursday without contact.
RFr. LB Ben Stille (groin) is expected to play Saturday.
While there was talk of snow earlier this week, it appears that the forecast for Minneapolis on Saturday has changed. It’ll still be chilly, with temperatures hovering around 35 degrees and a SSW breeze around 10 mph at kickoff, but it appears the chance of precipitation has diminished almost entirely.
Riley said the offense practiced outside for two days during the week to prepare for cold temperatures and higher winds.
“That’s why we did go out and throw and catch cold footballs all through the week.”
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.