RICHMOND – For a second straight day, the Redskins went through practice with a crew of officials, and as they did, defensive players received another reminder of the league’s heightened emphasis on the enforcement of illegal contact on receivers within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
The officiating crew held their annual meeting with the players Thursday night to show them the league’s video on rule changes and emphasis focuses for the 2014 season. Then to hammer home the message, the officials worked the practice a second straight day.
The penalty that drew the most enforcement Friday was illegal contact, which proved frustrating to the defensive players, who believe that the rules already put them at a disadvantage.
“Any time you’re in press coverage, it’s a fight for the receivers and the [defensive backs],” cornerback David Amerson chuckled, shaking his head. “Of course, it’s seems that they always lean to the offense. There’s a lot of pushing and slapping at the top of their routes and stuff. But my biggest thing is just call it both ways.”
Seven flags were thrown for illegal contact Friday. Most drew reactions of disbelief from the defensive backs.
“Like [defensive backs] coach [Raheem Morris] said, the refs are grey matter,” cornerback E.J. Biggers grinned. “If a call gets made while we’re competing, sometimes it happens like that. There will never be a perfect game. Like Coach Jay [Gruden] said, you’ve got to live with the call, you’ve got to move on. You’ve just got to hold teams out of the end zone.”
Gruden agreed that some of the calls seemed a bit excessive, but said that players will have to alter their approach.
“You have to. If they’re going to call it like that, it’s going to be an issue across the league – not just here,” Gruden said. “These defensive backs and linebackers have been taught a certain way for a long time. They’re just going to have to let go of the guys after five yards, and make an emphasis of it, otherwise it’s going to be a flagfest. … A couple of the calls were questionable in my opinion, but, that’s the way it’s going to be and what we’re going to have to adjust to.”
Biggers said players can’t let the fear of calls cause them to become tentative.
“If you modify the way you play too much, you could get hurt out there,” he said. “Of course there are rules and regulation that you have to abide by, but you’ve got to play your game. You can’t worry about what the call is. Just treat it as grey matter.”
Biggers also said that he hopes that the players will have a little more flexibility in games, hoping that the referees were over-emphasizing the infraction this week to help players become mindful of the more rigid regulations.
“They’re going to try to remind us and call as many as they see,” Biggers said. “In a game, it might be different, but for now, they’re trying to show us what’s the right way to play the game.”
Washington has a walk-through Friday afternoon at 4:10. Here’s our camp guide, if you’re planning to attend.
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