The hot topic among defensive players after two weeks of NFL preseason games has been what hits are legal. The subject was spurred by the NFL fining Chicago Bears linebacker Jon Bostic for a high hit, while Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger received no penalty for his season-ending hit on Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller.
"You can complain all you want, (but) you better adjust," the Kansas City Chiefs' defensive coordinator said on Wednesday, "because that's how the game's getting called."
The NFL's player and health safety initiatives have expanded protection in recent years for everyone from defenseless receivers to tacklers in the open field.
According to gamebooks analyzed by USA TODAY Sports, the first full week of preseason games yielded 25 major penalties -- personal fouls, unnecessary roughness, etc. -- and 15 of those players were fined a total of $159,625.
Bostic was fined $21,000 for hitting San Diego Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie with the crown of his helmet, according to NFL vice president for officiating Dean Blandino. Sutton told his players to watch what is being penalized -- even after the fact -- and react accordingly.
"We try to show them all the time," Sutton said. "I think the players overall, across the league, are trying to adjust and adapt to the way the rules are being enforced. They're part of the game, and it's really not important whether you agree or don't agree -- this is how they're called.
"One of the things we tell our players all the time: In any game, some officials are going to be tighter than others. Not just in regards to the hits, but in anything, from (pass interference) to holding to whatever. ... You've got to figure that out quickly as the game goes on -- what way are they tilted a little bit this week?
"The officials try like heck to stay consistent. But every group has a little different way they enforce the rule. It's tilted a little bit more this way on this group and less on that. So, you've got to adjust to that."
-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor