Officials say jersey grabs are a no-no


RENTON, Wash. -- NFL officials gave their annual training camps presentation to the Seattle Seahawks Thursday, including the video that emphasized the rule changes and how they will be enforced.

The one change that the Legion of Boom likely paid close attention to is the increased emphasis on defensive holding, particularly grabbing the jersey of a receiver.

Craig Wrolstad, a Lake Tapp, Washington, resident and longtime NFL official who was promoted to a referee for this season, explained to reporters how the rule will be enforced.

"The big change, I suppose, is the grab of the jersey," Wrolstad said. "In past years, we had to interpret whether or not it affected the receiver. If you pulled a jersey and the receiver ran through it, we would let it go.

"But that left it up to us to interpret if it affected his stride or not. Sometimes it barely did, sometimes it didn’t. It was kind of a gray area. So now, if we see a jersey pull and the quarterback still has the ball, it will be a defensive hold. That’s the big difference."

Some people see this rule as a direct response to how aggressively the Seattle secondary plays defense. Cornerback Byron Maxwell disagrees.

"It’s not going to affect us at all," Maxwell said. "We play within the rules."

Wrolstad thinks players will adjust to the changes, but the officials at Seahawks’ practice Thursday got their point across with quite a few flags.

"We had a number of plays where we had a grab or a hold or contact downfield," Wrolstad said. "But these guys are professionals and they can modify their playing to the rules. You may see an uptick in some of these defensive holds or illegal contacts at the beginning of the preseason, but they’ll figure it out.

"By the regular season, the players that learn how to follow the rules will be on the field. The players who don’t probably won’t be. Coaches will emphasize that if this is the way it’s called, we can’t be doing it."

Wrolstad also said officials will closely watch for illegal contact beyond five yards of the line of scrimmage. In the first five yards, the receiver is considered a blocking threat. After that, it’s hands off.

"The rule always has been there," Wrolstad said. "But every few years we re-emphasize that it's a five-yard zone and we’re going to call it."