Ti­tans, Ea­gles lead with most penal­ties for low­er­ing head

NFL teams try­ing to ad­just to new rule

The Western Star - - SPORTS - BY TERESA M. WALKER

The NFL tapped Ti­tans coach Mike Vra­bel to nar­rate a video de­tail­ing the new rule on low­er­ing the head to ini­ti­ate con­tact, hop­ing the man who played 14 years as a line­backer in the league could more eas­ily ex­plain how play­ers should adapt.

Now Vra­bel’s own Ti­tans (0-2) find them­selves tied with de­fend­ing cham­pion Philadelph­ia for the most low­er­ingthe-head penal­ties through two pre­sea­son games with five apiece. Ten­nessee was flagged three times for the new rule in an open­ing loss in Green Bay , and the Ti­tans added two more in Satur­day night’s 30-14 loss to Tampa Bay .

Get­ting it right matters be­cause any player ini­ti­at­ing con­tact with his hel­met could be ejected af­ter an in-game video re­view de­cided in New York.

So far this pre­sea­son, blame ei­ther the player mak­ing con­tact, the speed of the game or ev­ery­one still get­ting used to the new rule.

“Pretty much all those are go­ing to fall into one of those cat­e­gories,” Vra­bel said Sun­day.

Ti­tans safety Kenny Vac­caro drew one penalty for run­ning across the field to tackle Bucs wide re­ceiver Mike Evans at the end of a 38-yard re­cep­tion on the side­line. Wide re­ceiver Nick Wil­liams was flagged late in the third quar­ter while on punt cov­er­age, cost­ing the Ti­tans 15 yards.

Vra­bel said Vac­caro has to do a bet­ter job avoid­ing con­tact with the crown of his hel­met while try­ing to break up the pass. The coach wasn’t sure if Wil­liams made con­tact, but noted the re­ceiver’s head was in the lin­ear po­si­tion the NFL is try­ing to elim­i­nate from the game. The Ti­tans will turn those plays into the league for an ex­pla­na­tion.

The coach said he al­ready showed his team an eight­minute video from the NFL of penal­ties in the first week of the pre­sea­son.

“We’ll keep do­ing that and we’ll keep coach­ing it and we’ll keep stress­ing it, and hope­fully it doesn’t, one, lead to in­juries, or two, cost us yards,” Vra­bel said.

Even though the rule is new, six NFL teams that have played two pre­sea­son games have not been flagged even once for low­er­ing the head to ini­ti­ate con­tact. In­di­anapo­lis, who plays Bal­ti­more on Mon­day night, was not flagged in its pre­sea­son opener. Be­hind the Ti­tans and Ea­gles, five teams have been pe­nal­ized un­der the rule three times apiece: Ari­zona, Atlanta, Carolina, the Rams and San Fran­cisco.

Chicago has three such penal­ties through three ex­hi­bi­tions.

The Ti­tans have been pe­nal­ized 25 times for 258 yards through two games.

Asked if of­fi­cials might be a bit overzeal­ous en­forc­ing the rule dur­ing the pre­sea­son be­fore hope­fully scal­ing back in the reg­u­lar sea­son, Vra­bel said he wasn’t re­ally sure.

“I try to do my job. They ask me to pro­vide a video, a voiceover video, on what I thought was the right way to play out­side line­backer or in­side line­backer tak­ing these blocks on, tack­ling. I thought I tried to go through and pro­vide ex­am­ples of what was good and what was prob­a­bly needed to be fixed and changed in some of the style of play,” Vra­bel said.

“But they don’t tell me, ‘Hey, coach, this is go­ing to get scaled back in the reg­u­lar sea­son.’ I think these guys are do­ing what their boss, and the league, is just telling them to do. So if they see that po­si­tion and they see con­tact, they’re call­ing it.”

That leaves Vra­bel and his as­sis­tants coach­ing the Ti­tans bet­ter to ad­just how they play.

“We’ll keep do­ing that and we’ll keep coach­ing it and we’ll keep stress­ing it, and hope­fully it doesn’t, one, lead to in­juries, or two, cost us yards.”

Ti­tans coach Mike Vra­bel

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