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Puttin' on The Hits

Defensive players practically wax poetic when describing the joys of making a clean, hard tackle


Giants Defensive End, 6'5", 275 pounds

"On the best hits you've built up speed, the person doesn't see you and you're coming at an angle where you know from five feet out that you're going to have a good shot. You can size 'em up. The best target is a quarterback who's stationary and has his back turned. I don't want him to see my eyes. I want to run through him as if I'm trying to hit somebody 10 feet past him. You're going through him. On the hit you wrap your arms and lift. You get him off the ground, and you make sure to put all your weight on him when he lands. You know one way to get a great hit? On an interception. After the other team throws an interception, their offensive linemen are running around with no concept of blockers because they always do the blocking. They don't know where to look. If you catch a linemen staring down, it's a gratifying hit because those guys are much bigger than we are. But if you do that and they get up, you're in trouble. They'll be pissed. You want to knock the linemen down and keep going. Do not stand around to find out what they're going to do when they get up."

MIKE SINGLETARY, Hall of Fame Linebacker, 6 feet, 230 pounds

"You know when someone tells you how something is supposed to be, like a Thanksgiving meal? They tell you what they're going to make, and you imagine it and your mouth starts to water. And then when you have the meal, it really is just like that. Well, when you go onto the field, you just want to get that big hit, and you can imagine it: the back coming through the hole, the hole opening up, and you're there and he's there and then it happens. All of a sudden Bam! And it's just like you imagined--and it gives you goose bumps. It's inexplicable what it feels like in your soul. It comes all the way from your toes to the top of your head. Getting ready to make a hit, you're almost like a cocked gun. When you pull the trigger, it comes from your toes and it goes to your knees and it goes to your hips and it comes out through your shoulders. I call it the 'punch.' When you have that punch, that's special. You just know, Maaaaan! That was it! And it's such a great feeling. Your reality matches your fantasy. In life that doesn't happen often. For me anytime I got a big hit, I'd scream. If the guy is lying there and he can't get up, I start screaming because I know I brought it and I know he felt it and I know we've got to run that play again."

JASON TAYLOR, Dolphins Defensive End, 6'6", 255 pounds

"On a blind-side hit you can unload all your frustrations from that week or day. But the league will fine you for hitting a guy too hard, and you can't hit a quarterback with your helmet. You have to hit him with your chest, and you can't hit him below the waist. You have a narrow range. In David Carr's first NFL game I had a great shot at him, and I was going to try to really hit him. I figured I wouldn't get fined for hitting a rookie. But he jumped right back up after I hit him, and I was the one who was woozy. I've also gotten totally nailed by offensive linemen. Once I was blocking for [Dolphins linebacker] Zach Thomas, and I stuck my head out a little bit and got knocked out cold. I used to trash-talk when I was young and didn't know what I was doing, but now I just shut up and play."

CHRIS HOPE, Steelers Free Safety, 5'11", 206 pounds

"How close I get to the guy before he realizes I'm there determines how hard the hit will be. If I can catch him off guard, I can really deliver a big hit. I played running back in high school, so I have an idea how backs are going to try to run the ball. I want to get lower than him and hit him right up under his chin, in his face mask, or I put my helmet directly in the middle of his chest. It's a great feeling when I hit him. It's kind of like a car wreck. Sometimes you get a little dizzy or a little sting depending on how big the guy is and how fast he's coming. There's a lot of shoulder pad and helmet contact, the whole thing echoes, and the crowd always makes a big Ooh!"

CHAMP BAILEY, Broncos Cornerback, 6 feet, 192 pounds

"What people don't realize is that it sometimes hurts more for the player who delivers the hit. Really, it sounds strange, but sometimes I'll make a big hit and I'll get a flashback to a previous hit in my career. I'll make the hit and I'll get up and I'll be a little wobbly, and I'll think I'm in a high school or a college game making big-time hits. It's really weird. It just happens, and then it's gone. But I can see myself making these hits in other games. I see myself in the uniform and everything. It's crazy."

REGGIE WHITE, Retired Defensive End, 6'5", 300 pounds

"The first feeling is elation, especially when you hear the crowd. You have to get right back into your mind-set and realize, O.K., I've got to do this again. You can tell when you've put a good lick on a person when you see his eyes. And when that guy gets up and comes back, it gives you respect for him. That happened with Phil Simms. We would punish Simms, knock him out of games, but he always came back. And some of what happens during a big hit you're not even aware of. Like I never knew I made noises when I hit someone. But then you watch NFL Films and hear all the noises, and you realize those grunts are coming out of you."