RICHMOND, Va. — The Washington Redskins have yet to play a game, and they already have a gripe with the refs.
Flags have been flying everywhere during the last two days of training camp, thrown by members of an NFL officiating crew that are passing through as part of the league’s annual briefings on rules both new and old.
A major point of emphasis: Illegal contact on receivers more than five yards downfield will be called more strictly than in years past, a change seen by many players as a way to rein in the physically aggressive Seattle Seahawks secondary.
“They can’t let Peyton Manning get routed again in the Super Bowl,” Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said, “so it’s definitely going to be a little different.”
That could be an understatement. There were so many defensive holding calls during Thursday’s practice that coach Jay Gruden quipped: “I’m an offensive guy, but, holy cow, we can’t have a flag on every play.”
Officials met with players and coaches Thursday night to go over the changes in detail. It didn’t seem to make much difference. There were seven penalties called on defensive players covering receivers and tight ends during the Friday morning practice.
“Oooooh! C’mon man!” cornerback Peyton Thompson hollered in exasperation to an official after getting cited for grabbing a receiver’s jersey — the type of little tug that might not have been called in the past.
During one drill, safety Ryan Clark went on a long rant that included: “There will be no more holding! Ever!” Someone on offense yelled back: “Shut up, Ryan!”
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett wasn’t happy, either. Asked if his players need to adjust their style of play, he said the calls got a “little crazy” and that “four or five” of the flags thrown during Thursday’s practice were for “nothing.”
“I think the officials need to adjust,” Haslett said. “But we’ve got to know that that’s going to be a point of emphasis. We’re still going to play aggressive, but we’ve got to be smart. … Obviously I think it’s a little bit late. The team that grabbed and hold, they win a Super Bowl.”
Haslett said technique and speed will play a great role than ever, and that some defensive backs will need to change how they use their hands.
Cornerback David Amerson, who drew the first flag Friday morning, said he can’t change his physical style of play. He was especially upset that receivers were getting away with the same type of contact that drew flags on the defense.
“We were watching it on film, receivers slapping us across and pushing off,” Amerson said. “There was one play on (Bashaud) Breeland. (Andre) Roberts almost pushed him down, so he kind of grabbed him so he can catch his balance. What else are we supposed to do? It kind of worked me up a little bit.”
“I guess it has something to do with entertainment,” Amerson said. “Everyone wants to see a shootout; everyone wants to see a high-scoring game. But it puts defensive backs at a disadvantage.”
Offensive players, of course, have no complaints — “I love it,” said quarterback Robert Griffin III — but even a high-scoring game can get tedious if it’s bogged down by penalties.
“It’s going to be hairy early on and hopefully it’s not a flag fest,” Gruden said. “That’s my No. 1 concern, too many flags.”
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