The NFL has asked its officials to focus on illegal contact penalties this fall. Illegal contact refers to prohibited contact by a defender when the quarterback still has the ball and remains in the pocket. It is a five-yard penalty, and results in an automatic first down. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert has more on that:
NEWS: The NFL has asked officials to pay particular attention to illegal contact fouls in 2022. There was a big drop in them in 2021. Classified as a "point of clarification," formerly known as "point of emphasis." Will there be a spike in flags? Maybe. https://t.co/XYTfBY2MBz
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) August 8, 2022
Seifert notes that illegal contact was called an average of 97 times per season between 2002 and 2020, but that number dropped to 36 last season. That’s led to the league’s competition committee including this in its “points of clarification” notes to officials (formerly “points of emphasis”).
This foul has previously been placed in the “points of emphasis” twice, ahead of the 2014 season and the 2004 season. In 2014, flags for illegal contact rose to 148 from 52 the previous year. In 2004, they rose to 191 from 79 the season before.
Seifert writes that another point of emphasis will revolve around roughing the passer fouls. There, the committee clarified that contact to the helmet or below the knee must be “forcible” in order to see a flag thrown, in an attempt to prevent flags being thrown for minor contact.
It sounds like NFL officials (some seen above during the Raiders-Bengals January playoff game controversial for its officiating) will have their hands full this season trying to decide what is and what isn’t considered illegal contact and roughing the passer.