Red flags over yellow flags

NFL week

October 16, 2005|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,SUN REPORTER

In the year of their revival, the Cincinnati Bengals lead the NFL with 57 penalties after five games, a circumstance that put coach Marvin Lewis on the edge of apoplexy last week.

"We don't have them in practice," he said. "For whatever reasons, we get in the game and then we turn them in [to the league office for review] and they're [deemed] not penalties.

"We've got to do a better job of conferring with the officials before the snap and make sure he doesn't call something that he supposedly is not going to call and then calls it."

Lewis isn't the only coach sputtering over penalties. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (53), Miami Dolphins (52) and New Orleans Saints (51) all have been penalized more than 50 times already. Miami is averaging 13 penalties a game, and the Oakland Raiders, who can never be left out of any penalty conversation, average 12.25.

Last week, the Ravens attracted a blizzard of 21 flags, one off the league record, and the Dolphins had a franchise-record 18. Not surprisingly, both teams lost.

Through five weeks, teams are averaging totals of 37 penalties for 292 yards. Last season after five weeks, the numbers were 33.5 and 273.

"We're monitoring it," league spokesman Greg Aiello told the San Jose Mercury News, "but it's too early to draw conclusions."

Last week's barrage led Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher to address the issue with his players in their Wednesday morning meeting.

"I don't think right now there is a respect for the game around the league in those instances you see," he said. "It's hard to understand. When you have a weekend like we had where you have ejections and those things, everybody is aware of it.

"You have to almost anticipate a quick trigger when you are dealing with player conduct and sportsmanship. I just wanted to remind them not to put themselves in position where you can be flagged for something that ordinarily wouldn't be flagged."

Fisher speculated the increase in penalties is a result of more unsportsmanlike conduct and late-hit calls than penalties on illegal contact and defensive holding, last year's points of emphasis.

Fisher also said putting more young players on special teams has contributed to the jump as well.

Nevertheless, San Diego Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer has more penalties (six) than passes defended (four) so far. In five games, Chargers defensive backs have been flagged for 13 penalties, four by cornerback Drayton Florence.

In Miami, defensive captain Jason Taylor was offside four times last year, but has been offside five times already this season.

"I've got to understand [opposing teams are] going to try to do that," Taylor said. "You're pressing trying to make plays and make things happen, and you jump. There's just way too many [violations]."

The least-penalized teams are the Detroit Lions (22), Pittsburgh Steelers (24) and Cleveland Browns (25).

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