The NFL is hoping players stop worrying about flags and fines during games.
NEW YORK — The NFL doesn’t want players worrying about getting flagged or fined.
"You gotta play," NFL football operations chief Troy Vincent said Tuesday at the league’s fall meetings. "You hope that no player is thinking about a rule. We want them to play [with a] free mind where you’re just free and you play."
Chiefs rookie linebacker Breeland Speaks said he didn’t take Tom Brady down because he was concerned about a roughing-the-passer penalty in the fourth quarter of Kansas City’s 43-40 loss at New England on Sunday night. Brady eluded Speaks and ran 4 yards for a touchdown to give the Patriots the lead.
"We watched that video and watched that play and Tom did what we’ve seen Tom do a thousand times," Vincent said.
"He stepped up in the pocket and the defender didn’t make a play or didn’t create a sack, but you don’t want any player thinking about a penalty or being fined but you hope that he would make that adjustment on some of the things we’ve put in place and that’s not just for his opponent’s protection but for his as well."
Overall, roughing-the-passer calls are down since the competition committee clarified to game officials the techniques used in such hits during a conference call last month. There were 34 roughing calls through the first three weeks and 19 in the three weeks since the call.
Vincent said the league didn’t advise officials to cut down on the calls, but emphasized to them making sure they see it clearly.
"If you don't see the complete play, don't call it," Vincent said. "That was a directive from the competition committee. That was always the point of emphasis but after the [conference] call and after watching the video, the committee and our coaches [said]: 'If you don’t see the complete play, we ask that you leave the penalty in your pocket.'"
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was penalized three times in the first three weeks for roughing the passer, including two of which that appeared to be normal tackles. Matthews suggested the league has gone soft and argued that defensive players no longer know what constitutes a legal hit.
Dolphins defensive end William Hayes tore his right ACL trying to avoid landing on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
"Every time we emphasized a call, you see more calls in the preseason and first [few] weeks and then you see an adjustment, and a leveling out of calls," said Atlanta Falcons CEO Rich McKay, the head of the league’s competition committee. "We’re not going to apologize for trying to protect players we think are in a vulnerable state."