The early part of the preseason included a surge of illegal-contact penalties, and Raiders cornerback Carlos Rogers thinks it all goes back to Feb. 2, 2014:

Seattle 43, Denver 8.

"I think it all stems from Peyton (Manning) in the Super Bowl," Rogers said. "The Seahawks were getting real physical and Denver didn't score enough points. The league doesn't like that. So that was an emphasis this year."

According to ESPN, there were 27 illegal-contact penalties in the NFL's first 17 preseason games, remarkable in that the foul was called only 37 times throughout the entire 2013 season.

Illegal contact and defensive holding have always been in the books, but officials warned players during their training-camp tour that the rules will be more strictly enforced.

In previous years, grabbing the jersey of an offensive player wasn't a foul unless it was ruled to have impeded him.

This season, any jersey grab will result in an automatic flag.

Vic Fangio, the 49ers' defensive coordinator, hopes officials aren't going overboard with the points of emphasis.

"You hate to think that these guys have it so drilled into their head that they're seeing ghosts out there now, too," Fangio said. "We were called for a penalty where a guy did nothing wrong, nothing from a technical standpoint or a rules standpoint, but he was called for a penalty. We hope that stuff gets cleaned up by the time the regular season comes."


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Raiders coach Dennis Allen said there will be a period of adjustment while players learn how games will be called -- both throughout the season and within the game itself.

"It's like a pitcher in baseball or a batter having to adjust to an umpire's strike zone," Allen said. "They're not all exactly the same. They don't call it exactly the same way."

Raiders cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, who got an illegal contact penalty in the preseason opener against Minnesota, said, "I'm very curious to see how they call it when the regular season starts."

While another point of emphasis will be flagging receivers for pushing off, Raiders cornerback Tarell Brown expects the defense to get most of the penalties.

"You've got to play the game and not be concerned about the flags," Brown said. "It's going to be the referee's discretion as to whether you're holding them or if they're pushing off.

"But it's an offensive league. You get a dominant defense like Seattle was last year and how physical they were, they had to change the rules."

Other Rule changes

  • Offensive players rolling up on the side of a defender's legs to throw a cut block will be called for clipping. Previously, only the back of a defender's legs were protected.

  • The game clock will no longer stop on a sack with more than two minutes left in either half.

  • The replay review process will include consultation with senior league officials at NFL headquarters, who will be monitoring all games.

  • The recovery of a loose ball in the field of play is reviewable.

  • Dunking the ball over the goal post will be an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

    Points of emphasis

  • Hands to the face will not need to be prolonged, nor will the opponent's head need to be pinned back, in order to be a penalty. Any forcible contact to an opponent's face can be considered a penalty.

  • Any abrupt movements by offensive linemen are subject to a false-start call, such as a center looking between his legs before a shotgun snap and then jerking his head back into the upright position. Movements that are smooth and not sudden will still be considered legal.

  • Illegal contact and defensive holding will be watched more closely. Contact with a receiver beyond the 5-yard bump zone with the quarterback in the pocket will be deemed illegal contact, with less leeway on the 5-yard zone than in the past. Even the slightest restriction that results from grabbing a receiver or his jersey is likely to be called defensive holding.

  • On the offensive side, players blocking more than 1 yard downfield, such as on a screen pass or a quick flip to the flat, before the pass is touched by a receiver will be called for pass interference.