BEREA, Ohio -- Browns coach Mike Pettine said the playcalling of defensive coordinators could be affected if officials continue to call illegal contact and defensive holding at an unprecedented rate during the regular season.
"You might see more press (coverage) because of it because the penalties are occurring above 5 yards," he said. "If you're sitting back and trying to catch a guy or contact him at the top of his route, that's when a lot of flags are being thrown -- at the top of the route, not necessarily within the first 5 yards."
Pettine said press coverage lends itself to fewer penalties because you're able to get your hands on receivers immediately at the line of scrimmage.
"If you're grabbing, that's a foul. To me, there's no debating that. If there's any form of grab or restrict, that's definitely a foul. (But) when you press, you have to get hands on without grabbing."
Pettine said coaches are anxious to see how officials are going to call games during the season. League figures show penalties are up nearly 44 percent over the same point last year: 756 infractions to 526. Illegal contact or defensive holding have accounted for 134 of the additional 230 infractions.
"I think the league is still in the process of trying to figure out how they want to call it," Pettine said. "We've had some interaction with the league office. We have our weekly routine where we send in plays and we get answers back. I don't want to go into the details of it, but we feel very comfortable with where we are with it based on the results coming back -- what should've been called, what shouldn't have been called. The whole league is curious to see if it's going to drop off."
Interestingly, Pettine said the Browns will monitor not only what's being called, but by whom.
"Will it very greatly by crew?" he said. "A lot of it is so subjective we'll really have to pay attention to each individual crew and how they're calling it. Everybody is a little anxious to see how it plays out."
In other developments:
The following did not participate practice, the Browns announced: RB Edwin Baker (hamstring), OL Michael Bowie (shoulder), DL Desmond Bryant (wrist), WR Nate Burleson (hamstring), DB Pierre Desir (knee), LB Darius Eubanks (shoulder), OL Randall Harris (knee), DB T.J. Heath (hip), WR Jonathan Krause (knee), LB Eric Martin (concussion), LB Keith Pough (ankle), DB Buster Skrine (thumb), DB Isaiah Trufant (knee), TE Martell Webb (groin) and DB K'Waun Williams (hamstring), OL Nick McDonald (wrist).
Pettine said the starters would play "in the neighborhood" of a half Saturday against the Rams, with some possibly working into the third quarter. Teams typically play their starters the first three quarters of the third preseason game, then sit their key regulars the following week in the fourth and final exhibition game. Pettine is taking a slightly altered approach because he plans to use his starters for an unspecified number of snaps next week against Chicago. "It's safe to say for most of the ‘ones' that they'll be in the neighborhood of a half -- just depends on how the (snap) counts go on each side of the ball," Pettine said. "If we felt that one side didn't get enough work in a half, I could see extending them."
The Browns will conduct their walk-through at the FirstEnergy Stadium on Friday morning. Pettine said it's a chance for newcomers -- players and coaches -- to get comfortable with the building, adding: "Just to get them familiar with, ‘OK, here's where you go. Here's where the locker room is.' "
Pettine said wide receiver Nate Burleson is "day-to-day" with a hamstring injury that has sidelined him since Aug. 7, though Burleson told the media Thursday he hopes to play against the Rams.
Reminding players about new rules or enhanced enforcement of others is a constant chore for coaches. For instance, after seeing running back Ben Tate finger-roll a ball over the crossbar during a recent practice, Pettine had to remind him that the move would draw a flag during games. "Some guys hear but they don't listen," Pettine said. "(Ben) was surprised to hear that (the finger roll was illegal), so as we get closer to the start of the regular season (there will be) a review of everything, a review of the rules changes."