In the sport of football, a "crackback" block refers to a block made by a receiver who was lined up outside the tackle box and is cutting into the middle of the field. The idea is that the defensive back (usually a linebacker) will not be expecting a block from the opposite direction, making the block more effective.
In most situations, crackback blocks occur when a ball carrier is running to the outside on one side of the field. The receiver on that side will cut inside to block the outside linebacker, who is focused on pursuing the running back.
Legality of Crackback Blocks
Crackback blocks themselves are not inherently illegal. However, many crackback blocks warrant penalties due to blockers using their helmets or hitting the defender above the shoulders. As long as the blocker hits the defender below the head or neck area and above the waist, a head-on crackback block is completely legal.
A block is also illegal if the blocker "launches" himself into the defender-if the blocker leaves his feet before hitting the defender, the block is illegal.
Pros and Cons
Crackback blocks are encouraged and even drawn into many offensive plays. They can be extremely effective strategically and are used even at the lowest levels of competition. Eliminating the linebacker gives a ball carrier much more room to run and can be a crucial part of a big play. Additionally, big blocks and hits are also popular among many football fans for being enormous demonstrations of strength by the blocker.
Crackback blocks receive a lot of criticism for being dangerous plays. It is very easy for a crackback blocker to lower their head and severely injure the defender, or even themselves. While they may look fascinating, crackback blocks can be very painful for the blocker and defender.
Overall, there are many groups who need to be aware of the dangers of crackback blocks. Coaches need to understand how to teach legal and safe blocks, as well as having the awareness to avoid dangerous hits as a defender. It is also the responsibility of the officials to uphold the rules of the game, prioritizing player safety on plays like crackback blocks.