Flag confusion still on steady increase

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Flag confusion still on steady increase

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO -- The NFL's safety crackdownhas changed its on-field product so radically in that fans, media, players and coaches are now conditioned to search for flags after every hit of consequence.
Was there helmet-to-helmet contact -- intentional or not, initiated by the offensive player or not? Did a defender "lead" with his helmet -- an act which will be a fact of life until players are allowed to take ball carriers down with flying scissor kicks. Was the offensive player defenseless? Did the defensive player launch? Was the head contacted in any way?There were a number of head-scratching penalties in Sunday's Patriots-Chargers game. The one that stood out most was the 15-yard roughing the passer penalty called on defensive end Andre Carter. Carter executed what appeared to be a textbook takedown of Philip Rivers in the second quarter, putting his helmet in Rivers' sternum as he released the ball and taking Rivers to the ground forcing an incompletion. Flag. Carter was brought up on charges of hitting Rivers with the "hairline" of his helmet. He didn't hit with the "crown" which would have happened if he ducked his head and turned himself into a missle. He basically hit Rivers with his eyebrows. "There's nothing they can really explain," Carter said. "It was just a good hit. I thought it was like right in the center of his chest. In the game of football, there's only so much you can control. I understand the helmet-to-helmet. I understand they're trying to protect the players in general because concussions have been a big issue, quarterbacks are being protected. But in the name of football . . . you just gotta play ball. You can't be tentative and think, 'OK, maybe I can hit him this way . . .' I'll be a man about it if I hit him in the head. That's my bad, but . . ."It comes back to the simple question of, "How do you teach it?" If what Carter did is illegal, where does that leave you as a defender or a defensive coach. On another level of officiating gripe-airing, there comes defensive holding or illegal contact. We saw two of those calls Sunday against Leigh Bodden. The first came on a third-and-4 late in the first half when Rivers threw incomplete on the other side of the field and Bodden got flagged for defensive holding when it appeared he merely had contact with Vincent Jackson as opposed to a full-out jam. Walt Anderson's crew got him again in the third quarter on another incompletion. It was nearly an identical play. That, of course, makes one wonder why Bodden did the same thing a second time. But what he was initially flagged for didn't seem like a foul in the first place. "I don't really have a comment on those plays," said Bodden. "I just thought I played good defense. I mean, I'm a physical guy. They want to get physical with me as well. I gotta protect myself. They're gonna call it the way, they're gonna call it."With both balls falling incomplete, it must have been a sickening feeling for Bodden. That he sullenly sat and stared straight ahead during most of the conversation was an indication it was."You look and see the flag and it's on you when it was incomplete on the other side, you just feel kinda . . . it's upsetting to see a flag like that thrown," he admitted. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Griff Whalen practicing for Patriots, wearing No. 14

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Griff Whalen practicing for Patriots, wearing No. 14

FOXBORO -- The Patriots took to the practice field behind Gillette Stadium on Friday with all but one player. 

Wideout Danny Amendola was the only player not present at the session. Newly-acquired receiver Griff Whalen was present and wearing No. 14. 

Safety Jordan Richards was back on the practice field for the first time since suffering a knee injury against the Jets in Week 12. Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder), Elandon Roberts (hamstring), Eric Rowe (hamstring) and Matthew Slater (foot) were all limited in practice on Thursday, but were on the field Friday.

Ravens safety Weddle was interested in joining Patriots before landing in Baltimore

Ravens safety Weddle was interested in joining Patriots before landing in Baltimore

FOXBORO – Back in March, Eric Weddle batted his eyes longingly at the Patriots. The two-time All-Pro safety’s time was done with the Chargers and he wanted to spend his NFL autumn with a team that had a chance to win it all. 

He didn’t land in New England, but he didn’t too badly, winding up with the usually competitive Ravens.  

On a Thursday conference call with New England media, Weddle confirmed that there was mutual interest expressed. 

“Obviously, I was interested,” he acknowledged. “I have nothing but high regard, respect and admiration – and envy, quite honestly – of the success of the New England Patriots over the years. Obviously, battling them in my career, it’s always been a great game. I love the way they play, love the foundation, love everything about it. It was definitely on my radar. There were talks both ways, it just didn’t end up [working out].”

The numbers massed at the position with Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon played a role in the two sides not being able to reach accord, according to Weddle. 

“I’m good buddies with Patrick Chung,” he said. “I grew up playing with him and Devin [McCourty] is one of the best to play, so I don’t know if it would have worked out personnel-wise. But obviously, I could have seen myself fitting in there seamlessly.”

Weddle’s New England attraction apparently wasn’t love that bloomed late in his career. Toward the end of his conference call, Weddle said, “I’m still wondering why they just didn’t draft me in ’07; I could have been still playing there now.”

As reporters puzzled for a moment trying to recall the 2007 first-rounder, Weddle chipped in with the answer: “[They took] Brandon Meriweather.”