ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos brought an NFL referee crew in this week to training camp in an effort to address the new rules that will be instituted this coming season.
The crew stuck around Friday to enforce the new rules during practice, and they played to mixed reviews.
In particular, new Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib appeared demonstratively frustrated on the field when flagged Friday for illegal contact, which is one of those new rules.
The rule states that if a receiver clears five yards past the line of scrimmage and the quarterback still has the ball in the pocket, defenders are not permitted to have any contact with the receiver.
For defensive backs like Talib, who became and All-Pro in large part thanks to his physicality, and fellow Bronco corner Kayvon Webster, who has been attached to Talib’s hip this year, that’s troubling.
“Too many flags man,” Webster said after practice. “Just too many flags.”
On the other side of the ball, watching the flags fly brought a big smile to Emmnauel Sanders’ face in particular.
“If someone grabs me, it’s going to be easy to hold me,” Sanders said. “I’m not like (Demaryius Thomas). He’s big, strong, physical; he can push a guy off him. A guy like me, I’m quick and fast, so defensive guys are always trying to latch on to me and hold me.
“So hopefully that rule will benefit me.”
Regardless of who it may benefit, referee Scott Helverson told the media on Thursday that he suspects the illegal contact rule will be the toughest of the new rules to enforce this season.
If a “mic’d up” segment on NFL Network from last season’s NFC Championship game is any proof, Seattle Seahawks corner Richard Sherman may be counting on officials to have difficulty calling the new rules.
In the segment, Sherman suggested his teammates commit illegal contact penalties every play, with the thought being that the officials, not wanting a game to take 5 hours, couldn’t conceivably call every penalty.
When asked about Sherman’s comments, Sanders shrugged.
“If they hold me, of course I’m going to say something,” Sanders said. “If they keep holding me and the ref’s not throwing the flag, then guess what? Now I’ve got to find a way to stop him from holding me. I’ve got to do whatever I can do to get open for Peyton.”
As for Webster, he said he doesn’t plan on changing his game that much to adapt to the new rules.
“Sometimes you have to get dirty and physical,” Webster said. “If the flags come for that, you can’t worry about it. You just have to move on.”
We also spoke with Broncos head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase about the new rules. Neither sounded too concerned.
“I think they will be a little more ticky tack with new rules earlier in the preseason,” Fox said. “Then they will kind of regulate back to some kind of normalcy. That’s been my experience.”
You can listen to comments from Webster, Sanders, Fox and Gase about the new rules in their entirety below. All four Broncos also went on to talk about Day 9 of training camp.
It was a lighter day overall, with the team donning shorts and shoulder pads ahead of Saturday’s scrimmage.
Many have talked about the fact that the Broncos lost size at wide receiver when they let Eric Decker leave and signed Sanders. But in the area where size may pay the most dividends — the red zone — Sanders made a nice play Friday, grabbing a touchdown pass between two defenders. In his interview, Sanders talked about how he plans on contributing in the red zone.
A year ago, Webster had some issues with a broken thumb, but he didn’t allow the injury to let him miss too much time. He discussed his toughness in the interview above.
The Broncos head coach chatted a little bit about what you can expect to see from the team in their third and final public practice, the scrimmage at Sports Authority Field on Saturday.
As fans may or may not know, the Broncos’ offensive coordinator is a very entertaining guy. He showed off his humor when chatting about whether the Broncos will utilize tight end Virgil Green as a running back this season.
Finally, we chatted with former Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs Friday. Bibbs is locked in a battle to make the team at running back, and he talked about why he chose the Broncos instead of several other teams who had made him offers as an undrafted free agent.