NFL asks on-field officials to focus on illegal contact fouls during 2022 season

The NFL has asked its field officials to be extra vigilant for illegal contact fouls during the 2022 season, a league spokesman confirmed Monday. The request could lead to an increase in such flags after a sharp drop in the 2021 season.

Illegal contact refers to prohibited contact by a defender when the quarterback still has possession of the ball and remains in the pocket. It’s a five-yard penalty and results in an automatic first down.

Officials have reported illegal contacts an average of 97 times per season between 2002 and 2020, but that number has fallen to 36 in the last season. The drop prompted the NFL’s competition committee to include illegal contacts in its “clarification points,” formerly known as “focus points,” for the 2022 season.

In managing illegal contact, officials must first identify the prohibited contact and then confirm the location of the ball and quarterback. The committee encouraged the officials to move from contact to the quarterback more quickly to better enforce the foul.

League sources polled by ESPN were divided on whether the wording of this year’s illegal contact instructions will result in a rise in flags, as has happened after the previous two focal points for the foul. In 2014, the number of flags illegal for illegal contact increased from 52 in 2013 to 148. In 2004, it increased from 79 in 2003 to 191.

Another important clarification point for 2022 will revolve around the roughing of the passer fouls. The Competition Committee has clarified that contact with the helmet and below the knee area must be enforced as some officials have thrown flags for minor contact in recent seasons.

Like every summer, reigning teams attend training camps to update players and coaches on all new rules and clarifications. NFL asks on-field officials to focus on illegal contact fouls during 2022 season

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