Late last week at the Ravens Insider blog at the Baltimore Sun, I ran across a very interesting item. The title of the post says it all: Harbaugh said decreasing penalties are “big emphasis” (their quotation marks). Read the post if you haven’t already.
This is news to my ears. All last season, I wondered why the Ravens seemed to be penalized so much. Often, games started with the referees seemingly practicing their flag tossing techniques as soon as the Ravens got off the team bus (or so it seemed; I’m sure it wasn’t quite that way). Who among us can ever forget the sight at Lambeau Field last winter, as the Ravens suffered a dispiriting loss caused in part by a hail of yellow laundry? The sight of Tom Brady begging for a flag in Foxboro? Folks are still kvetching about the flags on Ray Lewis for his hits on Chad Ochocinco in the first Bengals game and Austin Collie in the playoffs against the Colts. All the while last year, Coach John Harbaugh spent week after week claiming that the high number of penalties (and the high amount of yards those penalties incurred) were not caused by a lack of discipline. And week after week, I always disagreed. I was always of a mind that discipline is involved when it comes to penalties.
For the second training camp in a row, the Ravens have had officials at their practices to give the players a feel for a real live game. This is good in my opinion, for it gives the players an idea of how games will be called. When you come off a season where you had the fifth-most penalties in the league and the most yards penalized, you have to improve in that phase of the game. Not only were there lots of flags, but it seemed that there was always a penalty after a good play, be it on offense or defense. And some penalties were needless. Let’s not forget Derrick Mason getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the Green Bay game because of a call the referee didn’t make for pass interference.
It’s easy to say that the Ravens must improve on mistakes and penalties if they are to meet their goal of a Super Bowl victory. Giving the players the heads up regarding the number of penalties and how to try to avoid getting called for so many is a sign that Ravens are taking the issue seriously.