EAGAN, Minn. — An NFL officiating crew headed by referee Pete Morelli arrived at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center on Thursday to help them prepare for the upcoming season, show a video to illustrate new rules to players and explain the changes to Vikings players.
Morelli’s team also showed the video to members of the media.
The new rules make it illegal to lead with the helmet to initiate contact, simplify the language of what constitutes a catch and make it illegal for a defensive player to land on an offensive player with full body weight.
Naturally, the conversation with reporters turned to Anthony Barr’s hit on Aaron Rodgers from Week 6 of 2017. Barr hit Rodgers just after the scrambling quarterback attempted a pass. Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone.
Morelli said the hit that was within the rules of the game in 2017 will be a foul in 2018.
“Yeah, that was that second bullet point they showed you about full-body weight,” Morelli said. “Any time a quarterback is in a defenseless position, that’s just after throwing a pass, that could increase.
“You’ll see more tackles, so players will have to kind of roll to the side when they make that tackle instead of plopping down,” he added. “Yeah, [the] Aaron Rodgers [play] would be a foul this year. As long as he’s out of the pocket, established and all of that, but if he’s running, then it’s not the same.”
Barr said: “You’ve got to play by the rules at all times. I did that last year and will continue to do that as my career goes on.”
He does, however, think it will be a challenge for defenders to make adjustments.
“You’re playing fast, trying to attack the ball. It’s going to be tough,” Barr said. “It will be interesting to see how that’s officiated and called this year. I’m sure there’s going to be some debate from the players, coaches and officials as to who is right and who is wrong, but we’ve got to try our best as players to play within the rules.”
Barr also said he believed meeting with officials would be helpful.
“I think it’s good to have some dialogue, to communicate back and forth and ask questions that are necessary,” Barr said. “If you have a question, definitely speak up and write down all of the information you’re given and make it a point to learn as much as you can and apply it when it’s necessary. It will be a good meeting for us to have, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Barr has spent more time this training camp with the Vikings defensive linemen, picking up tips from coach Andre Patterson, as well as defensive ends Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison. The Vikings might utilize the linebacker in a special rush package this season.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot better. Working at it has definitely helped,” Barr said. “Obviously, the more you do something, the better you’re going to get at it. Working with Dre and watching Everson, B-Rob and Danielle do it, I have great teachers in front of me so it makes it a little easier. They’re great examples. I am going to continue to grind at it, continue to try and get better with it, and hopefully it pays off.”
Barr also was asked why he wasn’t at linebacker with the first-team defense (Eric Wilson stepped in).
“Yeah, there was a reason for that,” Barr said. “I’m not able to discuss that. Any questions about that, talk to the head man.”
Holmes feeling more at home
Rookie Jalyn Holmes said he’s taken a low-key approach in a Vikings defensive line room with a couple of big personalities.
“I’m just trying to fit in,” Holmes said. “I speak when spoken to and just try to keep my head low and try to learn defenses. I don’t do too much joking with them, but I just try to do my place.”
When asked who has been the most fun to observe, Holmes said, “B-Rob, for sure,” in reference to 12-year veteran Brian Robison, the longest-tenured Viking.
“They’re all good guys with different personalities, but it’s just real unique how at the end of the day it all jells together and is for the betterment of the group,” Holmes said. “I’m just trying to learn their ways, how they get along and how to mesh for a greater cause.”
Holmes spoke from the turf of TCO Stadium where the Vikings held a walk-through for the first time. He liked the set-up and has enjoyed having Vikings fans at practices.
“It’s dope,” Holmes said of the stadium at the center of the Vikings headquarters. “It’s kind of new, having fans here all the time because we never had that in college, but I’m just enjoying taking everything in.”
Play of the day
Receiver Tavarres King high-pointed a deep pass thrown by Trevor Siemian down the left sideline for a substantial completion against Horace Richardson.
Mike Harris, who started 21 of 28 games for the Vikings from 2014-15 before a medical condition landed him on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List in 2016, attended Thursday’s practice and gravitated toward the position work by the offensive line.
Former quarterback Brooks Bollinger, who played in seven games from 2006-07 for Minnesota, brought his entire family to TCO Performance Center for practice.