Official: Illegal contact works both ways

LATROBE, Pa. – The perception that the NFL is trying to further stick it to defenses by making the enforcement of illegal-contact penalties a major point of emphasis is not entirely accurate.

The illegal contact call works both ways, longtime NFL field judge Bob Waggoner said, as wide receivers will be scrutinized as much as defensive backs and will be penalized for pushing off, particularly when they are trying to create separation at the end of a route.

Waggoner was part of a three-man officiating crew that met with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday to go over new rules and discuss ones that the league has categorized as major points of emphasis.

Enforcing the illegal contact rule has become a priority, Waggoner said, because there is increasingly more clutching and grabbing beyond the 5-yard zone where defenders are allowed contact with receivers.

“I think what happened over the years is it’s kind of stretched a little bit,” said Waggoner, who is entering his 18th season as an NFL official. “It’s like a rubber band. Now we want to bring it back a little bit.”

Steelers cornerbacks Ike Taylor and William Gay shrugged off the tighter enforcement of illegal contract and each said it won’t have a profound impact on defenses.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau agreed.

“I don’t think they’re going to officiate it much differently,” said LeBeau, who was a Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback with the Detroit Lions. “There’s always been a lot of defensive holding called and pass interference called. I don’t think it’s going to change the way we coach it. I hope our guys will react if they are being very much a stickler for the rule.”