August 07, 2004
Illegal Contact Made Easy; NFL-Style
BY: Kevin Rousseau
A lot of times it’s not easy to come up with a topic worthy of discussion during the early days of training camp. I’m sorry; but the release of Kurt Kittner is not worth a full column. And besides, you can get that from the various beat writers that chronicle every snap in the August sun.
So you can imagine how delighted I was when a recent e-mailer asked me what I thought about the NFL’s new strict interpretation of the “illegal contact of receivers after five yards” rule.
Presto. Just add water, mix, and voila: a weekly column.
In case you missed it while documenting the first 100 days of the Francona administration (It hasn’t been Camelot, that’s for sure), the NFL’s Competition Committee decided that it will now have officials strictly enforce the rule of illegal contact on receivers after five yards.
The Boston Herald’s Michael Felger, in a recent story, said that “Some (Patriots) players feel they’ve become a target since they defeated the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI and the Colts in last year’s AFC title game with a physical approach in the secondary. Their suspicions were fueled by the fact St. Louis coach Mike Martz and Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy are on the NFL’s Competition Committee.”
At this rate, in a few years the NFL will outlaw tackling above the waist. The last time I checked, the game is called tackle football and not two-hand touch.
Martz and Dungy have made themselves look like sore losers by pushing for this change. Martz should still be embarrassed for the way that he and his Rams arrogantly thought they were going to just show up in the Big Easy and be handed the trophy. And Dungy would be wise to worry more about how his porous defense played back in January and the way Peyton Manning was confused all day by the defensive formations the Patriots were throwing at him.
The fact is, the Patriots played the cards they were dealt on both days. They were wise to come up with an aggressive, physical scheme against multi-faceted offenses in both cases. And if you’ve followed the team for any good amount of time, didn’t you love the fact that a Patriots defense was pushing back in the tradition of the great teams? What would the 1985 Bears say if they were told they were hitting too hard in the secondary?
Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the NFL trying to make it as easy as possible for offenses to score a bucket-load of points. “It’s just blatantly obvious that they want more scoring, they want more touchdowns,” said Patriot safety Rodney Harrison in Felger’s article. “…That’s what this league is about now. Putting an emphasis on something like that really takes the aggressive nature out of the game.”
I am not advocating for the re-emergence of a “Night Train” Lane clothesline tackling. Far from it. Receivers are sitting ducks when crossing the middle of a defense. But, like a lot of things in life, this rule has to be taken into context. Strictly speaking, offensive holding could be called on every play, so let’s start cracking down on that if we want to be fair. I guess we’ll see every little ticky-tack hand jive flagged and in the process have the momentum of a game drag on like jury selection.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the politically correct thing when he commented “Our approach to the game is the same as it always is, to know the rules and to play within them… It doesn’t matter what we think of them.” But don’t believe for a second that this doesn’t tick off the HC of the NEP. According to Felger, one of his concerns is that the field judge and back judge (who usually call illegal contact) are typically 20-30 yards off the line of scrimmage.
So if Belichick needed any extra incentive to prepare for Dungy and his Colts on opening night a month from now, he and his defense now has it.
Conspiracy theorists will say that this an attempt by the League hierarchy to single-out the Patriots in order to ensure that they don’t run away with a third title in four years and ruin the dream of parity. I’m not ready to go that far, but I will say that it does look to an objective observer that this change is aimed directly at area code 508.
I don’t know about you. But I can’t wait for Thursday September 9th at 9:05 p.m. Not with the Colts and their coach talking like they were robbed eight months ago. The last time a team was talking like it was robbed out of an AFC Championship by the Patriots, the Steelers received a 30-14 whopping to open up the 2002 season.
I have a feeling history is going to repeat itself.
Idle Zinger thoughts while not feeling the love for VH1’s “I Love the 90s”:
Besides driving around in a powder blue 1986 Dodge Aries (a chick magnet, for sure), I’ll remember the 90s for the unfortunate demise of 80s-style heavy metal hair bands a la Winger, Extreme, and Tesla. Where have you gone, quality music?
Troy Brown has reportedly taken a number of snaps in the secondary in dime packages. How can you not love this guy?
You can tell what kind of leader Tom Brady is by the fact that the entire team surprised him last week by singing “Happy Birthday” to him before practice.
I reported a few months back that new Redskins running back Clinton Portis was trying to wrestle No. 26 away from safety Ifeanyi Ohalete. Ohalete finally gave in after Portis bought him a car, let Ohalete use his house for a couple of parties, and buy him twelve tickets to every home game. Portis said “I fell like Superman now; I got my cape back. Superman’s not Superman when he don’t have his cape.”
The Patriots pulled a nasty surprise on a lot of fans when tickets went on sale a few months back. Apparently, the team no longer accepts Mastercard as part of a deal with rival Visa. Many fans, including a friend of mine, who normally get tickets were shut out.
What is this business of having a rookie receiver (P.K. Sam) running around wearing No. 14 in camp? Why isn’t Steve Grogan’s number retired?
The Patriots had three players ranked in USA Today Sports Weekly’s top fifty overall player rankings. Tom Brady was at #10. Richard Seymour was at #27. And Ty Law was at #33. Another example that teams win championships, not individually great players.
And even if you didn’t have a “K Car,” I would still like to hear from you. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column also appears in the Village Soup Times (Belfast/Camden/Rockland, ME), the Waterboro (ME) Reporter, the Twin City Times (Lewiston/Auburn, ME), the American Journal (Westbrook/Gorham, ME), the Current (Scarborough/Cape Elizabeth, ME), and the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly (Windham, ME).
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