Hold up, there's a new point of emphasis

The NFL is sending officials to training camps around the league to explain new rules and new points of emphasis. Jared Allen, for one, is happy to hear that more attention will be paid to offensive holding.

Over the weekend, the Vikings were joined by some members of the NFL's officiating fraternity, officials who are visiting every training camp to work with players and explain the new rules changes for 2009.

At least one Viking was happy to see them, especially when he heard that one of the points of emphasis will be offensive holding.

"It's about time," defensive end Jared Allen said. "Those guys get away with holding all the time. They said they missed too many holding calls last year. Hopefully, that will change and those guys will have to play honest."

In all, there are seven rules changes for this season. They include the clock starting after the ball is set following fumbles or backward passes that go out of bounds, requiring kick teams to have at least three players on each side of the ball on onside kicks, eliminating a return wedge of more than two people on kicks, eliminating a re-kick if an onside kick goes out of bounds, eliminating blindside blocks to the head or neck of a defender, eliminating initial contact with a helmet, shoulder or forearm on a defenseless receiver and expanding instant replay to include QB fumbles/passes when the ruling on the field is an incomplete pass and loose balls that were ruled to have touched the sideline.

In the area of points of emphasis, offensive holding topped the list. The competition committee admitted that there has been a decline in holding penalties since 2005. The rule as written says a blocker can't "materially restrict" a defender with his hands or arms, such as grabbing a jersey. Another question that has been raised by coaches is the intentional grounding rule. The rule reads that a QB out of the pocket can throw away a pass "near or beyond the line of scrimmage." Since the term "near" was viewed as vague, the language has been rewritten to say a throwaway pass must land at or beyond the line of scrimmage. The other point of emphasis for 2009 involves the number of kicking balls each team can have during a game.

As with many of the points of the emphasis that have been imposed from one year to the next, one can expect to see more holding calls made this season, much in the same way pass interference, defensive holding and personal fouls for hits on quarterbacks jumped when they were points of emphasis in previous seasons.

"The rules always seem to restrict defensive players," Allen said. "I know they're put in for safety reasons, because this is a violent game. But if offensive guys can't hold us like they used to, it will be fun to see how often they get caught."

When asked how often he gets held, Allen didn't even need time to think of a response.

"Pretty much every play," Allen said. "The games will get long if they call them all."

SUNDAY NOTES

  • According to league data, the percentage of instant replay reversals is barely over a one-in-three chance. In 2007 and 2008, 37 percent of reviews were reversed, up from 34 percent in 2006 and 31 percent in both 2005 and 2004.

  • On plays challenged by coaches, 85 of 229 challenges (37 percent) were overturned. The number of challenges in the last five years has remained surprising consistent (229-250-237-223-233 going backward from 2008.

  • There has been at least one challenge in more than 70 percent of games in each of the last three years.

  • Over the last 10 years, only Denver (90) has challenged more calls than the Vikings (82). But, thanks to Mike Tice's dismal record at challenges, the Vikings' 27 reversals tied them for seventh-most in the league.

  • By number, the offensive line is guilty of the most infractions. In 2008, there were more false start penalties (653) than any other play that draws a flag, followed by offensive holding (587) defensive offside (317), unnecessary roughness (199) and defensive pass interference (172).


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