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NFL wants officials to emphasize illegal contact fouls this season

Matthew Berry joins Pro Football Talk to discuss his jump from screenwriting to the sports world, the early days of fantasy football and more.

The NFL often instructs on-field officials to focus on particular points of emphasis ahead of the season and this year’s focus is going to be on illegal contact fouls by defensive players.

A league spokesperson told Kevin Seifert of that they have asked officials to pay closer attention to those fouls. Defensive players are prohibited from contacting receivers more than five yards off the line of scrimmage while the quarterback has the ball and is in the pocket.

The change in focus comes after a sharp drop in illegal contact fouls. There were an average of 97 penalties for illegal contact between 2002 and 2020, but there were only 36 fouls called last season.

The league has made illegal contact fouls a point of emphasis two other times in the last 20 years. Both of those instances saw a sharp rise in the calls, so the early weeks of the regular season should send a hint about if the same thing will happen this time around.