Not every rule emphasis implemented this season is aimed at more offense. Officials are going to be getting on quarterbacks and offensive linemen for a number of snap-simulating infractions.
The refs will be firing flags if quarterbacks change cadence and use subtle head, hand and/or shoulder jerks but don’t receive the snap.
It’s a rule that went on the books initially a while back. Dan Marino, the former Dolphins quarterback was proficient at getting defensive linemen to commit by bobbing his head and changing his cadence while the center and the rest of the offense stayed stock still.
Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and a few others have been pushing the envelope with pre-snap gyrations. Now they’ll have to clean that up.
“I guess you can’t [move] the shoulders, the head and the hands with the voice – they talk about calling that quite a bit,” Brady explained Wednesday. “Sometimes it’s just natural as you try to inflect your voice, just the movement of everything gets you going. But we’ve got to be cautious of it because I was warned a bunch by [referee] John Parry, who was here last week, about doing that in practice. He said, ‘Look, I’m OK with it, but there are a lot of refs who probably won’t be.’ ”
In addition to the quarterback, offensive linemen – centers in particular – will be in the crosshairs. Those guys who check under their legs to sight the quarterback then jerk their head up prior to the snap? Cheaters. And a quick tapping to the posterior of the center by either of the guards that isn’t followed by a sufficient pause before the snap? Cheating.
Those, of course, are in conjunction with the emphasis on the pass defense rules. Rules which, when you think about it, could be a boon for the Patriots smallish wideouts.
Can’t count on it, though.
“Over the years, that rule has gone back and forth about illegal contact, and I know when I first played, Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain held on every play and they never called it,” Brady laughed, bringing up two old Miami nemeses. “They said they were going to call it in 2003 and 2004, and they called it for a little bit. And then they said they were going to call it in 2007.
“I think it’s just one of those things that’s going to be crew to crew, week to week, and you can’t as a player go up and down on it, especially as a quarterback, and rely on a call,” he added.
Anticipating flags or being trying to draw a flag by embellishing contact (a.k.a. flopping), is not something Brady thinks is a great idea either.
“If they’re going to call illegal contact a lot, that’s great for the offense, but at the same time, we can’t go into the game expecting those,” Brady offered. “We’ve just got to go out there and try to run our routes and be physical when we need to be physical to get open because who knows if they’re going to call it or not. If it’s third down late in the game, you’ve got to just use your instincts.”
And that means – for an offensive player – you can’t get soft.
“As a route runner, you’ve still got to try to be physical at the top of your route because they’re going to try to get their hands on you – anything to disrupt the timing of the passing,” he explained. “And that’s what the defense is always trying to do, whether that’s the pass rush or whether that’s the coverage, and those marry up a lot of the time.’
While it’s frustrating to watch the flags fly, the teams that wrap their heads around the new reality first will probably be the ones that negotiate it best. Which helps explain why Bill Belichick wanted referee John Parry and his crew to be flag-happy last week during joint practices with Philly.
“Coach doesn’t want us to commit any penalties in practice,” said Brady. “You just start getting in bad habits of, for me for example, with the voice inflection on the cadence. You can’t continue to do that in practice and then think that in the game you’re going to settle down and not get called for that. So you’ve got to be conscious of them and try to work on them so that when they come up in the game, they’re really instinctual and you don’t have to think. Because the best part about playing when you’re really in a groove is you don’t think about anything, you just react, and that’s when you’re usually at your best.”