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NFL emphasizes its intent to enforce illegal contact rule

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  • NFL emphasizes its intent to enforce illegal contact rule

    NFL emphasizes its intent to enforce illegal contact rule
    By Jim Thomas

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - In his first go-around on the NFL's competition committee, Rams coach Mike Martz practically made illegal contact on pass plays a crusade during the offseason.

    Those efforts bore fruit when the NFL made illegal contact a "point of emphasis" for game officials at the league meetings last March. And this weekend at Western Illinois University, visiting game officials have started the "emphasizing."

    Referee Bernie Kukar, back judge Steve Freeman, side judge Tom Hill and head linesman Phil McKinnely arrived in Macomb on Thursday to work the joint practices and scrimmage between the Rams and the Chicago Bears.

    Among the points they are making to defensive players and coaches is that the illegal contact rule on pass defense will be more strictly enforced this year.

    "Points of emphasis simply are things that we want to pay a little closer attention to," said Kukar, who worked the Rams-New England Super Bowl following the 2001 season. "They're not changes in the rule - the rule has always been there."

    In the case of illegal contact, the league has decided - with much prodding from Martz - that its officials have been giving too much leeway to the defense. Too much leeway in terms of allowing contact more than 5 yards downfield. And too much leeway in determining what was - and what was not - incidental contact by defenders.

    "From an officiating standpoint, when you're 25 yards downfield and you're looking at this play happening ... it's pretty hard to determine where 5 yards are," Kukar said.

    That's one of the reasons, Kukar said, that game officials became more flexible over the years when trying to determine whether contact occurred 5 yards down field. Or 5 1/2. Or 6 yards.

    But not anymore.

    "All we're saying is pay more attention to that stuff," Kukar said. "Five yards is 5 yards, and any contact after 5 yards should be called."

    Also, there will be less flexibility in terms of incidental contact. Defensive players simply can't knock wide receivers off routes more than 5 yards down the field.

    Along those lines, Kukar said any pulling of a receiver's jersey by a defender now will be regarded as illegal contact. (Or holding.) No longer will game officials be asked to determine whether the jersey-grabbing actually restricted a receiver from running his route.

    There will be less gray area. At least that's the theory. But in the real world - on game day - will the illegal contact rule actually be more strictly enforced this season?

    "It's supposed to be," Martz said Friday. "So I would imagine it would be."

    Kukar had lunch with Martz on Friday in Macomb. On the practice field, Kukar and the three other game officials have been stressing this new point of emphasis with Rams and Bears players.

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: NFL emphasizes its intent to enforce illegal contact rule

    Thanks for the reiteration. The game was becoming a farce in the defensive backfields around the League allowing teams with less skilled defensive backs to compete with the likes of Bruce and Holt who would otherwise run roughshod through the secondery.

    Watch for the new Rams big three of Holt, Bruce and Curtis with Looker as the new Ricky Proehl to have many more YAC when they aren't weighted down with a 190lb cornerback clinging to their Jersey with the tenacity of a tic.
    The only people who will whine about this are the same one's that said the RAMS should have "adjusted" to the non-enforcement of the rules. By the same token these teams will have to "adjust" to new emphasis put on enforcement.
    Bump and run isn't being outlawed as some big name writers have put in print. True bump and RUN means you tie up the receiver at the line with constant contact all the way to 5 yards then release and RUN with the receiver and either stay with him in man coverage or pass him off to the next leval if the receiver leaves your zone.

    Just my two cents.

    It will be nice to see Bruce and Holt not have to dress themselves after every pass pattern they run if the d-back is kind enough to return their jersey to them following the play.


    • #3
      Re: NFL emphasizes its intent to enforce illegal contact rule

      It will be interesting to see just how much the league inforces this rule.
      I guess this means that you can count the Pats out of the playoffs this year. :tough:

      Adm. William "Bull" Halsey


      Related Topics


      • RamWraith
        Rams hope refs get strict on illegal contact
        by RamWraith
        By Jim Thomas
        Of the Post-Dispatch
        During a media presentation three months ago in Macomb, Ill., referee Bernie Kukar referred to the NFL's new point of emphasis on illegal contact as the Mike Martz Rule.

        It was Martz, after all, who pressed for a stricter interpretation of the league rule on illegal contact last offseason.

        But it could just as easily be called the Patriots Rule. Because without New England's ultra-aggressive play in pass coverage, officials wouldn't be looking more closely at contact between wide receiver and defender more than five yards downfield.

        Such contact, unless deemed incidental, is supposed to result in a five-yard penalty and an automatic first down. By making illegal contact a point of emphasis last March, the league wasn't changing the rule. It was just saying the rule would be more strictly enforced.

        At the midway point of the NFL season, has that really been the case?

        By the numbers - a qualified "yes."

        Defensive holding calls are up slightly, with 96 such penalties called eight weeks into this season, compared with 90 such penalties at a similar juncture in 2003.

        Illegal contact calls are up markedly, with 72 such penalties so far this season compared to 32 after eight weeks of the 2003 season. That's more than double the number of illegal contact penalties, but it still means that only nine such penalties are being called - each week - throughout the NFL.

        And some Rams will tell you that in recent weeks, officials have started to look the other way at illegal contact, keeping their flags in their pockets. Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce, for one, tactfully suggests that NFL officiating crews take a brief refresher course on the rule and how it's supposed to be enforced.

        "They're calling it, but I think they need to have another meeting on it," Bruce said. "Not too long of a meeting, they just need to continue to remind them."

        Then, hinting strongly at a lack of consistency in calling illegal contact, Bruce added: "They're not going to let the offense get by with the (illegal) motion rule. They're real consistent on calling that. So they need probably another two-minute meeting (on illegal contact)."

        In Game 5 against Seattle, Bruce was clearly shoved out of bounds in the back of the end zone by a Seahawks defender, but there was no flag, even though an official was very close to the play.

        "He was standing there, and he should've seen it," Bruce said. "He didn't throw the flag."

        With Bruce pushed out of the play, quarterback Marc Bulger threw a desperation pass to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, whose miraculous touchdown catch jump-started the Rams' fourth-quarter comeback in a 33-27 overtime victory.

        -11-05-2004, 05:21 PM
      • RamDez
        Touchy rule
        by RamDez
        Touchy rule

        Crackdown on defenses offers to give receivers a lift
        Monday, August 09, 2004
        Tony Grossi Plain Dealer Reporter
        Nothing sends ripples of angst throughout the NFL quicker than a drop in offense.

        "Everyone likes to see the ball flung around and point totals high," Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher said.

        He was speaking of fans as well as high-placed executives in the NFL.

        Show a group of NFL officials a downward trend in points or yards and brace for a rules change. Or in this season's case, a "point of emphasis."

        In March, league officials examined a 9.2 percent drop in passing yards - from 441.6 a game in 1995 to 400.9 last season. The latter total was the smallest in 11 years.

        Coming on the heels of New England's mugging of Indianapolis receivers in the AFC Championship Game, the league declared a crackdown on illegal contact and defensive holding.

        Game officials are touring NFL training camps this summer to emphasize to coaches and players that the rules will be strictly enforced. That means no more pulling, grabbing, chucking, knocking - anything to bump a receiver off his route - 5 yards beyond the line of scrim- mage.

        "It's going to be a huge topic [this summer]," said Mike Pereira, NFL director of officiating.

        "We want the offensive receivers to be able to run an unrestricted route beyond 5 yards, and we don't want him hooked or grabbed when he tries to get off the line of scrimmage."

        Tweaking rules in the NFL is a rite of spring. No professional sports league spends more time analyzing and refining its game than the NFL. The decline in passing yards became the statistical reference for the latest crackdown.

        But the lightning rod surely was the AFC Championship Game in January.

        Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning rode into the game following two consecutive passing performances in the playoffs that were nearly perfect statistically. New England promptly forced four interceptions in a 24-14 drubbing that canceled the coronation of Manning as the league's passing king.

        The reason for Manning's ineffectiveness was a Patriots' defense that physically mauled his receivers - and got away with it.

        "You watched it on television and you thought, 'Gee,' " said Seattle coach Mike Holmgren. "My daughters said, 'Dad, can they do that?' Well, yeah, they did."

        Two plays near the end of the game stood out. Manning was within a touchdown of tying the score at the two-minute warning. On consecutive plays, Manning's passes for tight end Marcus Pollard fell incomplete after New England linebacker Roman Phifer impeded Pollard beyond the 5-yard zone.

        After the game, Pollard made a comment that resonated in the ears of league rule-makers.
        -08-09-2004, 04:09 PM
      • Nick
        NFL makes significant change to tackling rules
        by Nick
        NFL institutes 15-yard penalty, possible ejection for lowering head to make hit
        8:32 PM ET
        Kevin Seifert

        ORLANDO, Fla. -- NFL owners passed an unexpected rule Tuesday that will expand penalties for helmet-to-helmet contact, one that is more significant and far-reaching than the NCAA's targeting rule.

        Under the change, a player will be penalized 15 yards and potentially ejected any time he lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. It will apply to tacklers, ball carriers and even linemen, and it will take the place of a previous rule that limited the penalty to contact with the crown of the helmet.

        The NCAA's targeting rule penalizes players only when they hit opponents who are in a defenseless position. It calls for mandatory ejections, but the NFL's competition committee has not yet addressed how ejections would be adjudicated, according to chairman Rich McKay. There is little doubt, however, that the NFL is determined to aggressively address a 2017 season that included 291 concussions, its highest total on record, and a severe spine injury to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier on a play that would fall under the new rule.

        "It just seems that players at every level are getting more comfortable playing with their helmets as a weapon rather than a protective device," McKay said. "Therefore, we need a rule that is broad and puts that in context, and that's what we think this does."

        Players, coaches and fans were left guessing on how the rule will impact the game. NFL Players Association president Eric Winston took to Twitter to share his thoughts.

        According to NFL research, nearly one out of every two helmet-to-helmet hits caused a concussion in 2017. That's up from a ratio of one out of every three in 2015. NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills said in February that the current concussion data had sparked a "call to action," and on Tuesday he said this rule would be a key part of reducing head injuries in 2018.

        "We spoke previously this year of having an all-time high of concussions," Sills said. "And we said that wasn't acceptable, and that we would respond to this, and this was part of the response. This is a very key component of the injury-reduction strategy on how we can reduce concussions immediately."

        The competition committee initially planned to make lowering the helmet a 2018 point of emphasis rather than a rule change, McKay said. But after a leaguewide discussion Tuesday, owners instructed McKay to convert it to language that could be added to the rule book immediately. The league called a late-afternoon news conference and acknowledged that some parts of the rule still must be fleshed out.

        At the top of the list is how to merge a long-standing league ethos against two issues: wide-ranging ejections...
        -03-28-2018, 05:14 AM
      • RamWraith
        Rams brought up to speed on new rules
        by RamWraith
        By Jim Thomas
        Saturday, Aug. 02 2008

        MEQUON, WIS. It's that time of year. Penalty flags went flying Friday at
        Concordia University as four members of referee Jeff Triplette's crew were on
        hand to work with Rams players and coaches. The group consisted of back judge
        Steve Freeman, umpire Jim Quirk, head linesman Steve Stelljes and side judge
        David Wyant. Most of their flags at Friday morning's practice were for
        encroachment or offsides by the defensive line.

        Members of NFL officiating crews annually visit all 32 teams during training
        camp to work practices and meet with players and coaches. Some changes of
        interest include:

        An elimination of the forceout rule. Players must now land with two feet in
        bounds for a pass to be ruled complete. Only if a player is visibly "carried"
        out of bounds by a defender will a pass be ruled complete. A simple "pushout"
        will now be ruled incomplete.

        The 5-yard penalty for grasping the opponent's facemask has been eliminated.
        A facemask penalty will now only be called for twisting, turning, or pulling
        the mask, with a 15-yard penalty assessed.

        Most, but not all field goal attempts, will now be reviewable under the
        instant replay system.

        A sideline-to-defense headset system will go into effect this season, similar
        to the coach-to-quarterback system used on offense.

        As part of the officials' media briefing, statistical breakdowns on penalties
        were made available. Among the interesting nuggets:

        Despite all the emphasis on protecting quarterbacks, the number of roughing
        the passer penalties called in 2007 62 was the lowest in the league since

        The Rams had the fifth-highest total of false start penalties in the league
        last year (31).
        -08-02-2008, 06:09 AM
      • Nick
        Clayton: Cracking Down on Corners
        by Nick
        Illegal Contact Enforcement Could Have Huge Impact
        By John Clayton

        The hardest thing to figure about the 2004 season is the impact of the NFL's desire to enforce contact or interference penalties after five yards.

        Some people you talk to tell you the impact will be minimal. Those are the same people who misjudged the impact of Charlie Weis's short passing offense on the opening years of the new millennium. The Patriots have won two Super Bowls despite not having marquee wide receivers. I still can't forget calling defensive coordinators before the 2002 season asking about how to defense the Weis's offense. Some pointed out Tom Brady's shaky numbers down the stretch run of 2001 and said that New England's short-passing attack was nothing to worry about. Guess what, other teams copied some of the Patriots ideas and the impact was huge.

        The same can be said about tougher enforcement of illegal contact by defensive backs. In many ways, it's the most significant rule adjustment in about a decade but the weird part is the rule hasn't actually changed. Now it's just going to be enforced to the letter of the law.

        Competition Committee members Mike Martz, Mike Holmgrem and others were appalled at the number of replays featuring cornerbacks mugging receivers and getting away with it. They had watched it with their own players during the season, but to see the extent of it league-wide was troubling.

        To come to the defense of the officials calling the plays, pass interference and illegal contact calls were enforced on a reasonably consistent basis during the regular season. After all, fans don't like to watch yellow flag after yellow flag being thrown. Football is a contact sport no doubt. The 238 interference calls worked out to an average of .93 a game, not even close to the 310 called in fewer games in 1998. Illegal contacts penalties were a manageable 79, .31 a game.

        Then came the playoffs. Both championship games became Fantasy Island for cornerbacks. The Patriots cornerbacks squat on receiver routes at about 10 yards and get very physical. Colts receivers and tight ends had their jerseys held and their bodies bumped. The situation in Philadelphia wasn't as bad, but Panthers cornerbacks bragged about how physical they were against the Eagles receivers in the NFC Championship.

        The Committee asked the league officiating department if officials were calling penalties differently in the playoffs. To their surprise, they received an honest answer. They were. The league knows ratings are at their highest during the playoffs. Fans don't like flags. So, cornerbacks had to clearly violate the rules to draw them.

        What was determined was the illegal contact rule was poorly worded. In 1994, the Competition Committee grew tired of cornerbacks mugging receivers and put in new wording to open up the receiver's ability to get...
        -07-23-2004, 12:49 AM