OXNARD, Calif. -- Playing quarterback in the NFL is considered one of the hardest jobs in professional sports. Playing cornerback could be getting just as difficult.
It has nothing to do with the physical abilities of the quarterbacks or wide receivers -- or even the cornerbacks -- but with the interpretation of the rulebook. One of the points of emphasis in 2014 will be illegal contact.
The league wants to lessen the clutching and grabbing cornerbacks do to free up more scoring.
“The rule has been in place for a while and sometimes certain teams will have success playing in a way that kind of stretches the rule, challenges the rule and so I think the league steps in and says, ‘Is this really what we want? Is this the right interpretation of the rule?’” Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “There are probably many other different examples of that through the years. I think it’s just the league coming back in and saying, ‘This is what the rule is. It’s been that way for a long time, let’s make sure we officiate it that way and we’ll give you examples of us not doing it the way we should have and we’re going to show you that. We’re going to start going back to being a little firmer to what the rule actually is.’”
In Thursday’s preseason loss to the San Diego Chargers the Cowboys had seven defensive holding or illegal use of hands penalties with three declined or wiped out by an offsetting penalty.
Last season the Cowboys had 12 defensive holding penalties, eight pass interference penalties and one illegal contact.
“Real, real ticky-tack,” said rookie corner Terrance Mitchell, who drew two holding calls. “But you know that’s going to be part of the game and I’ve got to make sure I don’t hurt my team by making those mistakes. I just got to work harder, get my game tighter.”
Like every coach, Garrett wants consistency in the flags. In the spring NFL officials met with the players to explain the new points of emphasis. They visited last week as well and the cornerbacks had several penalties for clutching and grabbing.
Some teams are aggressive all the time and almost hope the officials will stop throwing flags so the game does not become a marathon.
“I’d have hard time thinking that really good coaches in this league are telling guys to foul over and over and over again,” Garrett said. “They’re probably telling them to be aggressive and be physical and that’s a good thing.”