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Illegal contact penalties fly in first week of preseason

Stricter enforcement of pass coverage rules led to an avalanche of penalties in the first week of the preseason.

ESPN's John Clayton did the math, tallying 27 illegal contact penalties in the first 17 preseason games. By comparison, there were 37 such infractions all of last season. We saw 53 defensive holding calls from Thursday through Saturday. Compare that to the 171 defensive holds from September through December of last year.

What does this mean? Well, it certainly appears the league is using its game officials to send a message during the preseason.

In essence, these games are being used as a vessel to rid defenders of habits that won't fly under new guidelines that further restrict contact past the 5-yard bump zone. This explains why Buffalo Bills defenders are practicing in boxing gloves, and St. Louis Rams defenders are clutching tennis balls.

Peter King wrote in his "Monday Morning Quarterback" column he's been told the league plans to "officiate tight in the preseason." Whether that carries into the regular season remains to be seen.

If it does, expect record levels of laundry. Who's rooting for that?

*The latest Around The League Podcast answers every question about preseason action that you were too afraid to ask. *

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