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Giants defenders have to get used to reduced contact

Giants cornerback Walter Thurmond III talks with a

Giants cornerback Walter Thurmond III talks with a teammate during team drills at training camp in East Rutherford, NJ on Friday, August 1, 2014. Credit: Joe Epstein

Walter Thurmond thought he had done everything right. He had tight coverage on Lance Moore, turned around for the ball and watched the potential touchdown pass sail over both of their heads. Textbook.

Then one of the officials came up to him.

"He said, 'You know, I could have got you for holding,' " Thurmond said Saturday night. "I wasn't holding. He's running into me, he's creating contact. My hands are off and I had tight coverage. So it's like, I can't have tight coverage? Are you going to throw a flag on me because my coverage is tight?"

Through the Giants' first two preseason games, the answer to that rhetorical question is a resounding yes.

NFL officials have made it a point of emphasis this season to reduce contact between defensive backs and receivers 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and the Giants have been flagged nearly a dozen times for infractions in pass coverage.

In the opener against the Bills, there were five penalties, one of them declined. On Saturday against the Steelers, there were six, with one declined.

"It's tough," said Prince Amukamara, who was called for illegal contact in both games. "Last year, they allowed the cornerbacks to have that healthy 5, so like 6 or maybe 7 yards. Depending on who you are, you can get away with just touching the guy. Now it's like strict, hands off, do not touch the receiver after 5 yards."

"It's a big point of emphasis," Tom Coughlin said. "Look around the league, if you watch any of the games . . . There is no contact allowed at all. You bump into each other shoulder-to-shoulder when you turn and run down the field, it's called a penalty. That is an issue."

Coughlin said the Giants will try to coach their players to adjust to the stricter enforcement. "We have to get that straightened out," he said. "But it will be interesting because there were a couple of situations out there that I think the officials are going to have to get straight as well."

Said Thurmond: "You just don't know what they're going to call because everything is based off of the judgment and opinion of the referees . . . You don't want to go easy because you think you might be holding on this play and they get a deep pass. It really puts some players in a tough situation when that happens."

Thurmond pointed out that if the idea of the penalties is to make for more exciting offensive football, having all of these stoppages in play to sort out the flags will be counterproductive. "Most of these teams are throwing the ball 30 or 40 times a game," he said. "If half of those are penalties, that's going to slow the game down a lot."

Until everything is sorted out, defenders are going to have to try to figure out how to cover a receiver without making any contact at all.

Another rhetorical question: Is that even possible?

"It's just inevitable, it happens," Thurmond said. "There's always going to be some contact between both parties. It's just part of the game."

Until the league decides it won't be anymore.

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