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Hands off in 2005, too


Enforcement of the "chuck rule" will remain a major point of emphasis this season and referee Ed Hochuli offered no protest.

"It achieved the desired result," Hochuli told Jacksonville reporters during a preseason briefing that is conducted by officials with local media throughout the NFL each summer. "I think it's a fair rule. It's much easier for me as an official to say this is the rule and enforce it. We were worried it was going to be flag day and we were very happy after the preseason that things settled down."

The league ordered a dramatic enforcement last season of the illegal contact rule that forbids defensive backs from impeding the progress of receivers beyond five yards of the line of scrimmage. The rule had been in the books since 1978, when it first achieved the desired result: increase scoring.

Peyton Manning set an all-time, single-season touchdown passes record last year and rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was 13-0 in what was clearly the "year of the quarterback." It was certainly no coincidence that passer ratings flourished in a season in which the "chuck rule" was strictly enforced, and the league hopes that trend continues this year.

Defensive holding will also be strictly enforced, again, as any defender who grabs a receiver's jersey in the slightest way will be penalized.

You could almost hear Hochuli announcing the words, "First down!"

Offense is here to stay, the league hopes. All attempts, at least, will be made to keep it that way.

The league is also making a major point of emphasis this year in promoting player safety and discouraging misconduct.

• Open-field horse-collar tackles will be penalized. That means any defender who tackles a runner or receiver by a sudden grabbing of the collar of his shoulder pads will incur a 15-yard penalty.

• Peel-back chop blocks from the rear by players outside the tackle box will be illegal.

• Kickers will be treated the same as quarterbacks following an interception: They may not be struck until they assume the posture of a potential tackler.

• Attempts to freeze or disrupt a kicker by attempting to call a timeout by a team that has exhausted its supply of timeouts will result in a 15-yard penalty.

• Players engaging in pregame fights will be ejected. The officials are on the field 50 minutes prior to kickoff to observe pregame conduct. Stomping on field logos during the pregame was not addressed by the league.

Replay review was not significantly addressed in the league video Hochuli presented to the media on Friday, which would suggest that the replay system is firmly entrenched in the game's officiating process.

"My personal opinion is that it's here to stay. I think they will continue to make changes with the system, but most officials agree with me that it's a good thing. It doesn't fix all mistakes, but it doesn't make mistakes," Hochuli said.

Hochuli and three other officials are here this week to work with the Jaguars.

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