October 4, 2022

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The NFL is asking field officials to focus on illegal contact errors during the 2022 season

The NFL is asking field officials to focus on illegal contact errors during the 2022 season

The NFL has asked its field officials to pay special attention to illegal communication errors during the 2022 season, a league spokesperson confirmed Monday. Demand may lead to an increase in these flags after a significant decline during the 2021 season.

Illegal contact refers to the contact prohibited by the defender when the midfielder is still holding the ball and it is still in the pocket. It’s a 5-yard penalty and results in an automatic foul first.

Officials reported illegal contact an average of 97 times per season between 2002 and 2020, but that number dropped to 36 last season. That drop prompted the NFL Competition Commission to include the illegal contact among its “clarification points,” formerly known as “focus points,” for the 2022 season.

When managing illegal contact, officials must first identify the blocked contact and then confirm the location of the ball and midfield. The commission encouraged officials to move more quickly from contact to center, in order to better enforce the error.

League sources were split in an ESPN poll as to whether the wording of this year’s illegal contact instruction would lead to a spike in flags, as it did after the previous two points to emphasize the error. In 2014, illegal flags for illegal communication rose to 148 from 52 in 2013. In 2004, they rose to 191 from 79 in 2003.

Another important point of clarification for 2022 will be about strengthening passers-by’s mistakes. The competition commission made it clear that contact with the helmet and below the knee area should be enforced, acknowledging that some officials have thrown flags for minor contact in recent seasons.

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As they do every summer, the governing crews visit training camps to update players and coaches on all new rules and clarifications.