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Saturday, September 29, 2012
NFC West penalty watch: Shifting standards

By Mike Sando

Replacement officiating left NFL players longing for more consistent penalty standards.

"It's just hard to go out there and do your job when you don't know what a holding call is," Seattle Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson said Monday night. "With he old refs, you knew if your hands were inside, you can grab a little bit. The minute you go out here (with your hands), boom, let go. That is easy.


"But how am I going to practice if I'm doing this and they still call it? How do you play? You don't know what's right and what's wrong."

Robinson's comments provide context for our first penalty watch item of the 2012 NFL season.

The regular officials are back this week. Standards figure to become more consistent. Players will have a better feel for each crew's tendencies based on experiences with the 17 various crews in past seasons.

Seattle has been one of the most heavily penalized teams regardless of replacement officials.

The first chart shows where NFC West teams rank among the 32 NFL teams in accepted and declined penalties through Week 3, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Seattle has a league-high 36 penalties, one more than the team had at this point last season (35 was tied for the lead a year ago). The Seahawks incurred only 19 penalties through three weeks in 2010, their first season under coach Pete Carroll. Their total during two-plus seasons under Carroll (315) ranks third in the NFL.

Seattle ranked 19th in penalties for 2009, its lone season under coach Jim Mora. The team had the third-fewest penalties under coach Mike Holmgren from 2002 through 2008, its first seven seasons in the realigned NFC West.

San Francisco has 12 fewer penalties than it had at this point last season. St. Louis has 10 fewer. Oakland has seen the largest gross decline (35 to 15). Atlanta (minus-16), Minnesota (minus-15) and Carolina (minus-12) have also managed double-digit drops. Washington (plus-21), Dallas (plus-15), Pittsburgh (plus-15) and Indianapolis (plus-13) have suffered double-digit increases.

Arizona had 22 penalties at this point last season, two fewer than the team has in 2012.

The chart below shows which NFC West players have the most penalties this season.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has regularly suffered penalties for delay of game. The Seahawks have suffered four of them this season, one fewer than their 16-game total for 2011. No other team has more than two. Seattle suffered two in 2010, when Matt Hasselbeck was the primary quarterback.

The 49ers have one delay penalty. They had nine all last season.