FOXBORO — For the second time this preseason the Patriots got a first-hand look at how the new league points of emphasis will be called when referees were on hand at Tuesday’s joint practice with the Eagles following last Thursday’s first preseason game with the Redskins.
The referees called drills like they were a game — throwing flags for the penalties they saw. The general theme with the players, coaches, as well as officials is there will be an adjustment period.
“There were a lot of flags today — it’s kind of different, but they are making a point of emphasis of certain things and they are throwing the flags so we had a good look at it today and we have to be better on that end,” defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said.
There were a number of flags thrown at defensive backs for defensive holding and illegal contact during 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, which was one of the main points of emphasis for the season. This was clearly evident by the number of these types of penalties called in the first week of the preseason. For players who play in the secondary, they understand it is just part of what the game has evolved into.
“I think it’s just the way the league is,” Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty said. “They want to see points scored and if it gets too crazy and they feel like the defense is impeding too much on points being scored then there will be a rule change or point of emphasis on that to try and help the offense score.”
For cornerback Darrelle Revis, he’s just trying to get accustomed to the new rules by the time the regular season hits.
“It’s the beginning. It’s the beginning stages and the only thing we can do is ask questions and learn,” Revis said. “There were a lot of flags out there today, but at the same time, it’s a new rule and we’re just trying to get acclimated and do the best thing we can do by covering receivers in the preseason games and in the regular season.”
Unlike in last Thursday’s preseason game, the referees are on site for the entire week leading to Friday’s second preseason game with the Eagles. They met with the team prior to Tuesday’s joint practice and when they throw flags during practice — players are encouraged to get clarification as to why the flag was thrown. The referees will be in town for the remainder of the week including Wednesday’s practice — something the players find very useful.
“It helps. I feel like it gives you some knowledge of just what is going to be called and how the game is going to be played,” McCourty said. “As you can see there is going to be a little bit of a change just with the emphasis on illegal contact and different things like that. Every year the refs come and it is always good. Different things ‘ they throw flags on you, you can actually talk to them and get the explanation, which is a little different as in the game you are going onto the next play and you have to be ready to go. Today we were actually able to talk to them and get a good explanation of what we are able to do and what we can’t do throughout the season.”
Revis also likes being able to have the referees available for clarification.
“Yeah, there are new rules now in 2014, and we’re just trying to get acclimated to those rules now and try to play within the rules,” he said. “We were down there a little bit — just asking them questions, anything we could ask to try and get a better feel for the new rules.”
While the flags may seem to be flying at an excessive rate during the preseason, referee John Parry noted Tuesday once the regular season comes, the number of penalties called generally goes down by roughly 10 a game (15-25 to an average of 13.1) — a byproduct of the players and officials getting used to the changes with these practices serving a major role.