Colts struggle with illegal contact rule

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts thought they had gotten the ball back from the Giants on back-to-back plays in the first quarter on Saturday.

One was an interception by cornerback Darius Butler. The other was safety Mike Adams recovering a fumble after cornerback Greg Toler had stripped the ball from Giants receiver Victor Cruz.

Both plays did not count because a flag was thrown. Both penalties were because of illegal contact by the Colts.

The Colts found out the tough way just how serious the NFL is about the illegal contact penalty. Defensive players are not allowed to touch the offensive player after he gets outside of the 5-yard contact zone.

The Colts were called for illegal contact five times Saturday.

“It’s a point of emphasis coming into the season,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We have officials in practice. We have the NFL officials in so we’ve been harping on it in the whole offseason program, OTAs, minicamp and all through training camp. You can kind of see where the weekend’s going, including our game, as far as the emphasis on illegal contact, offensive P.I., D.P.I., holding, all those things in the back end. Guys are going to have to do a great job. You’re allowed five yards, and then after five yards, you’ve got to get off guys and you can’t have contact. We’ve got to do a better job coaching it.”

Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard was called for illegal contact twice. The first time was when Butler intercepted Giants quarterback Eli Manning. When he was called for it a second time, it took away an exceptional play by linebacker Bjoern Werner, who caught Giants running back Rashad Jennings from behind for no gain.

“It’s tough, especially now days with these tight ends,” Sheppard said. “Most of them can run. They’re 6-6, 260 pounds running a 4.5. It’s tough for linebackers now days to put ourselves in a position of success. It is what it was. They called me for it. They’re right, I’m wrong. You have to learn from it.”