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Emphasizing illegal contact, referees crack down on defensive holding at Broncos practice

Defensive holding will be called early and often in preseason. Once the regular season starts, things should get back to normal, says John Fox.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Seattle Seahawks' defense, particularly their secondary, made a name for itself by being physical—arguably too physical at times.

In football, defensive backs are allowed to "jam" receivers within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Officials usually allow minimal contact beyond five yards as well, as long as it is not anything blatant.

In 2013, Seattle's secondary got away with what should have been illegal contact on almost every play. That won't fly in 2014, according to the NFL.

Here's what PFT's Mike Florio wrote last month:

A decade ago, the NFL made illegal contact and defensive holding a point of emphasis based in part on complaints from former Colts G.M. Bill Polian that Patriots defensive backs were manhandling Peyton Manning’s pass-catchers.  Now, the NFL is re-emphasizing the point of emphasis.

As explained by FOX’s Mike Pereira on Twitter, a former NFL V.P. of officiating, illegal contact and defensive holding will be a point of emphasis in 2014.

The league says they will be cracking down on illegal contact this season, starting on the practice field. Denver hosted a few referees at practice on Friday and the flags were flying, per on-site observers:

So, will this affect Denver's defense? Coach John Fox does not seem to think so.

"It’s pretty typical with the start of camp when you get real NFL officials in here. We’ve got officials that come in just about every day. I think they will be a little more ticky tack with it earlier in preseason has been my experience. Then they will kind of regulate it back to some kind of normalcy," Fox said after practice on Friday, per a quotesheet sent out by the team.

Cornerback Aqib Talib echoed Fox's theory.

"They always talk about it but once it’s September and the real games start, it will probably be regular," Talib said. "It’ll probably go through preseason and die out."

Practicing with officials helps the team "see what they're seeing and try to win the officiating battle every time," added safety Rahim Moore.

The Broncos—and Seahawks—will receive their first test when they square off in Week 1 of the preseason next week (full preseason schedule). If the officials have anything to say about it, Denver's receivers won't be "manhandled" this time around.