Morning Ram-blings: Penalties dialed back

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The penalty flag is a staple of the preseason. Partly because so many young players are struggling to keep up and/or adjusting to the rules and partly because the exhibition season is the time when officials work on enforcing the league's points of emphasis.

The results this year amounted to a deluge of laundry covering the field during the first three weeks of the preseason. But, as NFL Nation columnist Kevin Seifert writes, the league walked it back a little bit in the final exhibition game.

Simply put, the games couldn't continue to be called as tightly as they were the first three weeks but the league also was able to send the message of what is and isn't legal even if it meant over-enforcing points of emphasis such as illegal hands to the face, defensive holding and illegal contact.

The increase of those infractions being called was staggering but don't expect it to continue in the regular season.


A roundup of Friday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... In the wee hours of the morning, we looked at DE Michael Sam's confidence that he belongs on an NFL roster. ... To complement that, we examined the tough decision facing the Rams when it comes to Sam and the roster. ... Here's the observation deck with thoughts and notes from the preseason finale. ... Here's my final 53-man roster projection. ... The Rams did the right thing not playing their starters against Miami. ... In the final #NFLRank, Rams defensive end Robert Quinn lands at No. 6, which I believe is too low.


Grantland's Bill Barnwell attempts to predict the unpredictable for this NFL season.

Bill Simmons offers his annual NFL preview with a gambling slant.

Bad news for the 49ers, good news for the rest of the NFC West (especially the Rams) as Aldon Smith gets a nine-game suspension.

ESPN Insider Mark Dominik discusses Sam's chances of making the roster.

At stltoday.com, Jim Thomas breaks down the team's final preseason contest.

Columnist Bill McClellan explores the Rams to Los Angeles story further.