National Sports

Rise in flags makes NFL defenders wary of contact

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A subtle change to the NFL rulebook resulted in an 822 percent increase in illegal contact penalties through three weeks of the preseason.

Now the key question is not whether those calls will continue to rise in the regular season, because NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino is sure they will. He also says that’s a good thing.

What fans, coaches and defenders want to know is: Just how often will flags fly when games count next week? Just how much will cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers need to keep their hands to themselves?

Heading into Thursday’s final exhibition games, the jumps from the 2013 preseason for three particular penalties were striking: 83 for illegal contact, up from nine; 137 for defensive holding, up from 28; 99 for illegal use of hands, up from 22.


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