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Dean Blandino: NFL to continue to call downfield fouls more closely

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said Friday the officials will continue to emphasize penalties against clutching and shoving downfield by defensive players as the regular season begins.

Speaking during his first regular-season media officiating video, Blandino showed examples of what the league will call as fouls in the defensive secondary that had been ignored -- mainly outside the 5-yard zone from the line of scrimmage where contact is allowed -- even though such violations are in the rulebook.

"You can jam the receiver within 5 yards," said Blandino, who used examples during the preseason for this week's video. "You can't hold, but you can jam the receiver. We're really looking for an open hand to the chest or shoulders. You've got to stay away from the head, neck area.

"Within 5 yards it's legal ... but when we jam him downfield, it disrupts the timing of the route. That's going to be a foul for illegal contact."

Blandino said he asked NFL officials to make sure any illegal-contact fouls called are well beyond the 5-yard area so the call is clearly a penalty. He said the defenders can re-route receivers with steady body positon without making contact.

He said the league also has talked with referees about incidental contact downfield.

"You can have a touch, you can have a feel, vs. illegal contact where a foul is warranted," Blandino said.

He said another point of emphasis has been against defenders grabbing an opponent's jersey to slow down the receiver.

"Regardless of whether the official thinks that grab impedes the receiver, it's a foul," Blandino said. "Eligible receivers attempting to run a route, you cannot grab (their) jersey prior to the pass being thrown."

Officials also are being told to watch for offensive pass interference, he said, whether the receivers are making contact as the primary target or blocking defenders downfield to make room for a teammate running a route.

"The point of emphasis is the contact at the top of the route," Blandino said. "Pushing off to create the separation, that's a foul for OPI."

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