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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Preseason flags have Vikings on uneasy ground with rules

By Matthew Coller

With Hard Knocks in Cleveland, rookie quarterbacks battling for jobs across the league and numerous teams dealing with Super Bowl expectations, you would think storylines would be pouring out of the NFL left and right. Instead water-cooler football conversations have been drown out by talk about the NFL rule book.

When Minnesota Vikings linebacker Antwione Williams was flagged for roughing quarterback Cody Kessler late in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, the internet exploded with bewildered fans, players and analysts.

And that might not have even been the strangest flag of the day. The Vikings were more bamboozled by a penalty called on their opponent.

“The one that they [Jacksonville] had called on them, and [CJ] Ham, the guy is tackling him around his legs and he had his head to the side for the most part. I actually sent that in, to ask them, ‘Why was this called?’” head coach Mike Zimmer said.

The NFL announced before the preseason they were going to focus on players’ use of their helmet while tackling. This came from NFL Operations:

During Monday’s press conference, the Vikings’ head coach brought up examples of areas of potential confusion about the helmet rules.

“We had a cut block the other day and the guy goes and cuts, is that a penalty?” Zimmer said. “There’s a lot of things, a lineman runs out on a screen, I brought this up when they were talking about this whole thing. A lineman runs out on a screen and he goes and cuts the linebacker or the safety, is that a penalty? Because I don’t know how you can dive like that.”

The fear from coaches and players alike is that questionable 15-yard penalties are going to alter the results of games and that they won’t know how to avoid said penalties.

“It’s going to cost some people some jobs,” Zimmer said. “Playoffs, jobs, the whole bit, I’m guessing. We haven’t had any called on us so far. It’s just hard to figure out.”

History would suggest that the NFL tosses flags on “points of emphasis” during the preseason more than when the regular season comes around, but Zimmer said he’s received no assurances that things will be adapted by September 9 when the Vikings kick off against the San Francisco 49ers.

“No one has ever said to me, ‘hey don’t worry we’re going to call less or we’re going to straighten out in the regular season or we’re going to come up with a revised rule,’” Zimmer said. “No one has ever said that.”

Safety Harrison Smith said there is more frustration is preseason than in the past, even as the NFL is ever-adapting its rulebook.

“There are always points of emphasis coming off the previous year,” Smith said. “You want to adapt to those things, play within those rules to the best of our abilities. That is how our coaches coach. That is how our players play. But at the same time, think this year, league wide, it seems to be a consensus that it is a little over the top right now.”

Smith and wide receiver Adam Thielen were both in line with Zimmer’s concern that the new focus of the rules is going to impact outcomes.

“It is going to happen,” Smith said. “Without a doubt that is going to happen. If you get a big sack, that changes field position, that changes maybe getting a guy out of field goal range, get them on third and long or something like that, or get off the field at third down. Then it’s a whole new set of downs. It is going to change games.”

“I think the biggest thing about it that worries me is in critical game situations,” Thielen said. “Your defense makes a big stop and all of a sudden boom, there’s a flag thrown for something that shouldn’t be a flag. That’s the stuff that really worries me. You’re hoping that it’s just because it’s the preseason that there are all these flags thrown and that they’re trying to make a point, and in the regular season they’ll try to not throw as many, but you just don’t really know.”

Smith wanted to make clear that players aren’t against changes or improvements in safety, rather they feel the changes need to be realistic.

“I want to drive home the point that, especially as defensive players and as ball carriers, we want to make the game as safe as you can make it,” Smith said. “No matter what, it is football and we are out there hitting. It’s not always going to be possible. We’re not resistant to these changes, they just need to be physically possible, I guess.”

LISTEN: ESPN’s Kevin Seifert talks about the players’ issues with NFL rules this preseason:

The post Preseason flags have Vikings on uneasy ground with rules appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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