MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Don’t look now, but #NFLTheTVShowAndSportsBook is well underway. Training camp has been going on for a couple of weeks or so, “Draft Day” the movie has been on a couple of times (which is always fun in a Watch a Train Wreck way), the Hall of Fame Game (which is about as fun as having a tooth pulled) was last week and the NFL preseason schedule opens Thursday. So, there is no avoiding it.

Baltimore Ravens fans got the word on Monday that the team extended the contract of place kicker Justin Tucker for four years, which was a good idea, and that running back J.K. Dobbins passed his physical and was activated from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. The team says he will start slow, with a chance to play in Week 1 if all progresses well.

Meanwhile, the team also announced the regulars will not play in Thursday’s preseason opener against Tennessee, which is also probably a pretty good idea given how so many of them began to go down to injuries from almost the first minute of the preseason last year, and quarterback Lamar Jackson has still not signed a contract extension with the team.

Oh, yeah; that.

Neither side says it is concerned about it, that it will get done on its own one way or another. Whether I believe that or not is neither here nor there, but if they say they’re not concerned about it, why should I concern myself about it?

Elsewhere closer to home, the Pittsburgh Steelers are now officially in the post-Big Ben era and will have a new quarterback from here on in, and the NFL Players Association has included the name of Daniel Snyder, the sleazy sawed-off owner of the Washington Commanders, the sleazy New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft as well as the sleazy Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in its response to the NFL’s appeal of sleazy Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension.

The NFLPA says if Watson goes down it wants stricter punishment as well for the misconduct of Snyder, Kraft and Jones, so good luck with that.

So sleazy.

And finally (for today, at least), the NFL has issued officiating instructions to referees for the upcoming season focusing on illegal contact fouls, which, of course, is not a good way to start this.

An illegal contact foul these days occurs when a defensive player initiates contact with a receiver more than five yards down the field while the quarterback is still in the pocket. The penalty is five yards and an automatic first down.

An NFL spokesperson confirmed to one of the league’s corporate broadcast partners ESPN that the NFL has asked referees to pay “particular attention” to illegal contact fouls this season. Less than 40 illegal contact fouls were called in 2021, while the per-year average from 2002-2020 was 97.

Thus, we can count on more illegal contact fouls this season, which is what the NFL wants because it will mean more stops in the action, which will mean more television and radio advertising, which means more advertising revenue.

So bank on taking more restroom breaks, because history tells us that when the NFL makes illegal contact fouls a point of focus, they become a point of focus, with the 2004 and 2014 seasons resulting in a spike of illegal contact fouls throughout the seasons after the boys upstairs suggested it might be a good idea.

It is, after all, no matter how hard the players bust their arse and put their necks on the line, a TV show.

Just ask the boys upstairs on Park Avenue.

“60 Minutes” does have to start on time, you know.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT