Packers playing wait-and-see with refs

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
11:00
AM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Dom Capers and Tramon Williams aren't suggesting the NFL is not serious about its mandate that referees call receiver-defensive back contact more closely this season, but the Green Bay Packers veteran defensive coordinator and the eighth-year cornerback know one thing:

"As many flags as we've had out there the last two days," Capers said Friday afternoon, "it might be a six-hour game."

[+] EnlargeTramon Williams
Al Bello/Getty ImagesTramon Williams and the rest of the Packers secondary have gotten a crash course this week on the new emphasis on contact in coverage.
A few hours earlier Friday, after referee Ed Hochuli and part of his crew worked practice for the second straight day, Williams made almost the exact same statement.

"If they want to throw flags every day like they did at practice," Williams said, "we're just going to have to play a six-hour game."

Capers, who is in his 29th NFL season and sixth with the Packers, said he has seen different rules emphasis come and go so many times he has lost count.

Does that mean this too shall pass?

"We'll see," Capers said.

For now, Williams said he's going to keep doing what he has done throughout his seven-year career.

"You have to," he said. "Obviously it's an adjustment period, but you have to put yourself in that situation to see how they're going to call it. If they're going to call it different, then you make that adjustment. But if they're not going to call it different, then there's no adjustment to be made."

Based on the way the rest of the Packers' defensive backs have been practicing, they're following Williams' lead. Although there were fewer flags on Friday than Thursday, when Hochuli said perhaps only half-joking that his crew flagged 10 of the first 10 receiver-defensive back one-on-one plays, the emphasis on holding, illegal contact and pass interference remained apparent.

"What they're stressing right now is any tug of the jersey, [it's] PI, period," said Williams, referring to pass interference. "That's why you've been seeing so many flags out there. It doesn't matter where it is, they say you can be running down the field just with your hands on the receiver, chances are they're going to emphasize PI right now. It might be called right now, which is a little ridiculous, but it's emphasis time, so that's what they have to do."

Part of the emphasis also is on policing what receivers and tight ends try to do to defensive players. As long as that remains part of the focus, Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said he will have no issues.

If Whitt is skeptical, it's probably with good reason. Dating back to 2009, when the Packers lost to the Arizona Cardinals 51-45 in a wild-card playoff, he has been vocal in his displeasure about the way receivers such as Larry Fitzgerald have been allowed to get physical with his players.

"The Fitzgerald plays back in 2009, I showed them those plays, when he pushed [Charles Woodson] down," Whitt said of his meeting with Hochuli. "I said, 'This is why we play the way we play, because we're not going to allow 14 points.' In my opinion, that was our best football team, and we lost that game because we allowed 14 points. So you asked us to trust you then. We're going to trust you again, all right? But it has to be called. It has to be called both ways. As long as it's called evenly, there is no issue. There is no issue. And I believe the officials are trying to get it right. They're trying to get it right. But they have to call the OPIs and have it go both ways."

As you might expect, the feeling was different on the offensive side of the locker room.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, thinking ahead to the season opener and the Seattle Seahawks' physical defense, said, "Different crews will interpret things differently obviously, but I was joking with this crew that we might want them to head up to the Pacific Northwest in about a month."

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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