Buffalo Bills running back Chris Ivory may want a haircut after Sunday’s game.
The veteran tailback took a handoff in the third quarter of his team’s contest against the Houston Texans, but was chased down by defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney. Though it appeared Ivory had a step on the Texans defender, Clowney was able to reach out and grab a single strand of Ivory’s very long braids, yanking him down by the hair.
Video of the tackle has spread across social media, including Ivory’s seemingly pained reaction after the tackle. His head snapped backward with the tackle, and afterward appeared to be in some pain. Clowney, who himself has long braids, reached out a hand to help Ivory up after the tackle.
Had Clowney held the neck of Ivory’s jersey it would have been a penalty, but there is no rule in the NFL against tackling a player by their hair.
That issue actually came up in a game in 2016, with Redskins running back Rob Kelley being yanked down by his hair after a 45-yard run. An official initially threw a flag on defender Rodney McLeod for a horse collar tackle, but referees huddled and determined that there was no foul on the play.
The league later explained why it’s legal to tackle a player by their hair.
“The issue is whether he grabs inside the collar or the shoulder pad, grabs the jersey at the name plate or above, or grabs the hair,” NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said (via NBC Sports). “You could see the player actually grabs the hair, not the back of the jersey at the nameplate and not inside the collar. Grabbing the hair and pulling the runner toward the ground is legal.”
Ivory had a difficult game against the Texans, rushing six times but gaining just five yards. The Bills offense struggled against the Texans, with rookie quarterback Josh Allen being forced to leave in the fourth quarter with an elbow injury.
The tackle was an important one, as the Bills were trailing and driving toward what could be the go-ahead score. The team would eventually take the lead, but the Texans roared back behind a field goal and an interception returned for a touchdown against Bills backup Nathan Peterman. The Texans intercepted Peterman again on the Bills final drive to seal the victory.
Chris Ivory was able to return to the game after the painful — and somewhat embarrassing tackle.