Tackling? What tackling?

Frank Gore runs right up the gut of the Indianapolis Colts defence. Defensive back Jerraud Powers delivers a big body-blow, but Gore just bounces off and keeps on running, one of two broken tackles on the way to a 64-yard San Francisco 49ers touchdown.

New York Giants’ running back Ahmad Bradshaw jumps over Washington Redskins safety Reed Doughty to avoid the tackle during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford

Frank Gore runs right up the gut of the Indianapolis Colts defence.

Defensive back Jerraud Powers delivers a big body-blow, but Gore just bounces off and keeps on running, one of two broken tackles on the way to a 64-yard San Francisco 49ers touchdown.

Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice catches a screen pass and is surrounded by four Cincinnati would-be tacklers — emphasis on “would-be.”

Rice’s right hand touches the ground, but he keeps running right through the Bengals for a 48-yard score.

With the game on the line, Brandon Marshall moves past Ken Hamlin, Terence Newman and a few other Cowboys for a winning Denver Broncos touchdown in Dallas.

What’s the deal? Don’t these NFLers practice tackling anymore?

Uh, no. Not really. Go watch a professional football practice. You’ll see passers passing, receivers receiving, punters punting and blockers blocking.

Yet tackling, one of the game’s essential skills and the punctuation mark to nearly every play, usually gets a miss.

“We teach tackling fundamentals,” Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said.

“But there’s no reason to tackle our own guys.”

Instead, defensive players are taught not to tackle.

They get right up to the ball carrier and hit the brakes, just missing him or giving him a little bump.

Make full contact, and coaches and teammates get upset.

Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward threw a fit last year when he felt safety Anthony Smith hit receiver Willie Reid during a drill. The Steelers have a tackling dummy named Big Bertha, but that’s about as physical as it gets on most training camp days.

Sure, that keeps everybody healthy, but some Sundays can look pretty ragged. Many players get a chance to tackle at full speed only during exhibition games. It shows once the regular season begins.

“It shows a whole bunch,” Redskins safeties coach Steve Jackson said. “That’s one of the fundamental skills.

“A lot of people don’t tackle now because of the salary cap. You lose a guy because of a tackling drill, you’re the dumbest guy on the planet.”

Phillips says getting in position but not hitting is actually harder than tackling — and that it forces his Cowboys players to emphasize good technique.

Jackson, after watching a poor Redskins tackling performance earlier this season, isn’t fond of that theory.

“You train yourself to ’just miss,’ ” Jackson said.

“And now (in a game) you have untrain yourself in a manner of split seconds.”

There are some exceptions. Many teams have live tackling during specific short-yardage drills during camp, and, of course, there’s usually at least one preseason scrimmage that gives the defenders a chance or two to bring someone down for real.

There’s no ready-made solution for the tackling woes.

Practice it, and someone could get hurt. Don’t practise it, and Sundays can be painful for a different reason. Defenders go for the big hit, but don’t wrap up. They try to arm-tackle a big running back around the chest instead of the legs. They take bad angles — as if that “just miss” attitude from training camp was still in play.

Meanwhile, scoring is up in the offence-minded NFL, which to this day doesn’t even count tackles as an official statistic. Offence remains the side of the ball that sells.

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