Bengals get crash course from officials at training camp

Head Coach Marvin Lewis smiles at a player during the first day of Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp Friday, July 28 at the practice fields beside Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Head Coach Marvin Lewis smiles at a player during the first day of Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp Friday, July 28 at the practice fields beside Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Bengals offensive lineman Eric Winston doesn’t see the National Football League rule changes making a major impact this year.

As president of the NFL Players Association, Winston has a little more familiarity with that process than most, but he and his teammates got a lesson on the tweaks that were made Friday during a video presentation and meeting with officials.

A crew of officials have been on hand at Bengals training camp since Thursday and will remain through Saturday’s practice.

“I don’t see a ton of difference,” Winston said. “They are always tweaking pass interference and things like that, they are always looking at what players are defenseless and what players aren’t defenseless. This year at the competitions meeting, it was pretty uneventful. It was probably the fastest one we’ve had in a long time. There were a few subjects approached and talked about but I didn’t see anything too outrageous.”

The same video presented to the team was shared with media in a separate meeting Friday prior to the seventh practice of training camp.

Referee Tony Corrente, who is in 23rd year as an NFL official, led the presentation, which highlighted the more lenient policy on touchdown celebrations. Group celebrations are now permitted, and players can use the ball as a prop, but the 40-second play clock begins as soon as the touchdown is signaled, so a delay of game penalty could be assessed with too lengthy of a celebration.

Four other areas of concern also were addressed in the rule changes, based on commissioner Roger Goodell’s discussions with players past and present: blindside blocks, launching, low hits on the quarterback and jumping over linemen to block field goals, the latter of which is no longer permitted.

Driving with the head, neck, chest or shoulders into the passer below the knee is illegal, blindside blocks are illegal below the knee and above the neck, and players cannot leave both feet before making contact to a defenseless player.

“There’s not much of a change,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “The celebration rule is going to be big now. … Then they talked about the stuff on the quarterback, so you’re not going to go low on the quarterback. We talk about the target zone all the time, so it’s not much of a change really.”

Winston said outside of what was shown in the video, the league also is pushing for suspensions after first offenses on certain outrageous penalties.

That is something he, as president of the NFLPA, especially wants to keep an eye on to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.

“Some of the examples I agreed with and some I didn’t, but we’ll have to play that out as it goes,” Winston said. “That’s why we have independent hearing officers that are paid by both the NFL and the PA. They are neutral parties that can settle those disputes.”

Corrente said the rule changes will be implemented in the preseason, where games should be called just like regular-season games.

“We do realize the level of play, the first game of the season, we’re going to see first team for a series and then we’re going to get into the second team and the number of penalties will start to increase, and as we start to see the 70-90 players on the roster and skill level diminishes quite a bit,” he said. “For us, it’s honing our skills so we need to focus our attention on what is and what isn’t. We don’t want to get into a bad habit of detecting what is an obvious foul and not penalizing. We run the game straight up.”

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