There are no Jordan Rules in the NFL.
At least that’s the word according to Mike Pereira, former vice-president of officiating for the league and currently the well-respected rules analyst for Fox Sports.
“This is coming from an officiating standpoint, but the notion that some players get away with more than others and others are targeted because of their reputations like you hear about in the NBA, is a myth,” Pereira said. “First of all, you usually don’t see a team more than twice in a season.
“And secondly, since you’re getting graded for getting things right so that you can work the playoffs and hopefully the Super Bowl, it would be counter-intuitive to do otherwise.”
To that notion, Saints players would politely disagree.
To varying degrees, however.
“To say that if a player has a certain reputation and the refs aren’t at least aware of that would go completely against human nature,” said tackle Zach Strief, a 10-year veteran. “A lot of the calls you get or don’t get are a product of what you’ve done in the past. They watch the tape and if they walk in with a preconceived notion of what might be happening, then they might be a little faster to pull the trigger.”
Cam Jordan sees it from the defensive side.
“It happens more than you know,” he said. “I hope I’m getting better calls now than my rookie year, but it seems like I get more holds, more calls against me and sacks taken away.
“If the O-linemen have more respect than you do, then they can get even more overly aggressive about something they’re all already getting away with. That’s what they get paid to do — hold.”
Quarterback Drew Brees was a little more circumspect.
“I think it probably takes place, but maybe not to the extent you would think,” he said. “Maybe there are DBs like Darrell Revis and others who are considered the best in the game, and honestly they just have a certain technique.
“It’s not like they are getting away it. Whatever position you’re playing there’s a lot of grabbing and tugging, but it’s not a penalty until you’re called for it.”
The issue, of course, is Saints cornerback Brandon Browner, who leads the league in penalties, the latest two of which were called in the fourth quarter Sunday in the game the Saints ultimately lost in overtime to the Tennessee Titans 34-28.
That gave him 17 for the year.
Browner, as is his want, disagreed with the calls, both during and after the game, although they appeared to be legitimate.
But Pereira said that although Browner came to the Saints with a reputation as a flag magnet, it’s what he’s doing on the field now that’s getting him in so much hot water.
“If I were Mr. Browner, I would find out what I’m doing wrong,” Pereira said. “I’d send the league a reel of my (penalty) plays and ask them to break it down for me.”
But, Pereira added, Browner shouldn’t feel targeted.
“It’s virtually impossible to pick on a player,” he said. “I grew up a 49ers fan, but I would never give Jerry Rice the benefit of the doubt on a play.
“We’re making decisions in 1/25th of a second and we’re not looking at numbers when we do.”
Crews do, of course, scout teams for tendencies. The intent is to be in better position to make — or not make — calls and to not be surprised too often.
And some crews call more penalties than others.
The one led by referee Jerome Boger called 19 in the Saints-Titans game, 17 of which were accepted.
And while the Saints drew eight, the Titans outdid them with nine, three of which were for roughing the passer and two others for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“You get a disparity between crews,” Pereira said. “You get a disparity within a crew.
“Three roughing calls in a game is a lot. But they were all justified.”
The roughing calls were part of the league’s increased emphasis on protecting not just the quarterback but also defenseless receivers and others in vulnerable positions.
“There are always going to be a lot of things that happen in the heat of the moment,” Brees said. “This is a rough sport, but I don’t think people maliciously try to take somebody’s head off.”
Actually, the calls against Browner are not so much for rough play, but for holding and otherwise preventing receptions by any means possible.
And wherever the truth lies about his reputation resulting in more flags than he deserves, Browner isn’t joining in the conversation.
Well, maybe just a little bit.
“I don’t want to be messing with any of that,” he said. “What I think is that we’re all human, and humans make mistake.
“I’m the one who has to play the game, so I’m not saying anything else.”
After the week Browner’s had, that probably a wise course of action.