Expect to See Plenty of Flags in NFL Preseason
A group of NFL officials spent most of last week with the Philadelphia Eagles during training camp. They were there to make sure the staff and players understand any new rules, rule changes and points of emphasis regarding existing rules.
These officials spent some time on the practice field with the players throwing flags where necessary during some drills. They also made themselves available to the players during film sessions to explain why a flag was flown on a particular play.
Numerous flags were thrown in a one-on-one drill between Wide Receivers and Defensive Backs. Half of them were against the receiver and half against the defensive back.
Tony Steratore, an NFL official for 15 years, spent some time with the media answering questions and explaining how they intend to enforce the rules this season.
Steratore explained the league has instructed officials to “strictly” enforce the five yard illegal contact area. Defensive players will be allowed to contact receivers, as they have in the past, for the first five yards from the line of scrimmage. Rather than give six or seven yards as they have in the past, officials will throw a flag for any contact beyond the five yard mark.
Offensive players have been told the league has instructed officials to also “strictly” enforce any advantage gained by a receiver extending an arm any length that creates space to make a catch. Steratore acknowledged that officials typically gave offensive players some leeway as long as they did not extend their arm fully to create space.
Steratore also indicated he received a lot of questions from the staff and players about enforcing the sportsmanship rule.
The rule states:
Sportsmanship is always a point of emphasis. The use of abusive, threatening or insulting language directed at opponents, teammates, coaches, officials or representatives of the league is covered under unsportsmanlike conduct playing rules. This includes racial slurs, comments regarding sexual orientation and other league personnel will be held to the same high standard.
Steratore made sure players understand that celebrating any sack, touchdown, big play, etc. by taunting or demeaning an opponent will result in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. He credited Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly with setting up a team meeting for Steratore to make those points clear. Steratore indicated the players asked a lot of good questions for clarity on what is accepted and what is not.
These three points of emphasis will take some getting used to by the players and will likely result in a few extra penalties during the preseason.
Also, the NFL is using an experimental rule during the first two weeks of the preseason where the extra point will be attempted with the ball spotted at the 15 yard line, not the two yard line.