BEREA - The Cleveland Browns are sick of and tired of seeing yellow hankies and they've decided do something about it.
After being called for a whopping 44 penalties in four preseason games, the Browns players have agreed to create a kangaroo court they hope will scare players into avoiding careless infractions.
"We are the highest penalized team in the league, and that's unacceptable," said Browns left tackle Ross Verba.
Actually, the Browns were the NFL's fifth most penalized team during the preseason, following Chicago, Oakland, Kansas City and Washington, but they still recognize that carrying their per-game averages of 11 penalties and 96 penalty yards per game into the regular season would be suicide.
"You are not going to win the game that way," said Verba. "Everyone is going to be held accountable. You are going to have penalties that you can't help, but the one's that are just plain stupid, we are going to have to take care of those ourselves.
"It is out of hand. Anything less than six or seven penalties is acceptable, but 15. You just are not going to win."
The Browns committed 14 penalties in two different preseason games.
The severity of the fines levied by the kangaroo court and judge/slash-quarterback Jeff Garcia are being kept a secret, but according to Verba, it will be enough to "definitely make you think."
"That's a sign of maturity on our part in that maybe in years past we wouldn't have said anything about the problem," said Verba. "The coach can only do so much."
Several Browns players complained that referees were calling the preseason games closer than ever. The NFL made downfield contact between receivers and defensive backs a point of emphasis during the exhibition schedule, but according to Verba and right tackle Ryan Tucker, officials were more draconian than usual in watching for holding by offensive linemen.
"They were cracking down," said Tucker. "Obviously you can officiate a game any way you want to. If you want to be strict, you can make everyone's life miserable. I don't care who you are, everybody is holding on every play. There is going to be something wrong with a play every time if you really want to get down to it."
The intense scrutiny of officials and the new kangaroo court won't keep Verba from trying to get away with everything he can.
"I'm still going to try to cheat as much as I possibly can," Verba joked.