Kitty runneth over as Redskins become NFL's most penalized team

Updated: September 28, 2006, 3:22 AM ET
Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. -- Whenever a Washington Redskins offensive lineman commits a penalty, he has to put money into a kitty that is kept by guard Randy Thomas. The "fines" run about $25 per foul, so the enterprise hurts the ego more than the wallet.

On Wednesday, Thomas made a major change in the kitty rules.

"If we win, then nobody gets fined," left tackle Chris Samuels said with a big smile. "I like that rule."

No kidding. The line was whistled for six penalties in Sunday's 31-15 victory over the Houston Texans. Five of them were accepted, contributing to a tally that has made the Redskins the most penalized team in the NFL three weeks into the season.

"It's killing us," coach Joe Gibbs said. "If I don't find some way to emphasize it, to get it taught, and that continues? Then you lose football games."

The Redskins were penalized 12 times for 128 yards Sunday, giving them 30 penalties for 298 yards on the season, an unwelcome trend for a Hall of Fame coach who emphasizes self-discipline. The league average is 18 penalties for 146 yards.

Gibbs is so flummoxed that he polled his three new assistant coaches this week for new ideas to cut down on the infractions.

"Other than the firing squad, we haven't come up with anything," Gibbs said jokingly.

Gibbs has officials at practice every day, and he recently instituted a new routine -- suggested by linebackers coach Dale Lindsey -- of starting the first players' meeting of the week with a full analysis of every penalty from the previous game. Gibbs said the session isn't meant to be embarrassing, but it is.

"This week is no different," right tackle Jon Jansen said. "It's obviously just a longer film."

There are culprits all over. The defensive secondary has developed a knack for holding receivers on third-and-long, a major reason Redskins opponents have 11 first downs from penalties this season.

The special teams were flagged three times in the first quarter alone against the Texans. Running Clinton Portis was cited for taunting after a long run. Jansen and Samuels, the usually solid bookends on the line, got called for holding on the same play.

Gibbs said Portis' penalty was "pretty minimal." Portis dropped the football at the foot of a defender then appeared to say something, but whatever confrontation there was happened very quickly.

"We know you can't taunt, but to be truthful, if you watch that on TV, there's very little to it," Gibbs said. "But the point we made is that this is what is being called. It doesn't matter what we think about it."

Both Samuels and Jansen said they need to keep their "hands tighter" while blocking to avoid holding calls. The problem with holding is that it probably could be called on every play.

"It all depends on what they're looking for, year to year," Jansen said. "They can always be debated, but they were called, and we have to correct what they called. We talked to the officials after it happened, so we know what they were looking for."

Early-season penalties have been a problem for two straight years on defense, and fiery assistant coach Gregg Williams said he might be to blame for overselling "reckless abandon and intensity" to his players.

"I've got to analyze that to see if I'm a part of it," Williams said, "by revving them up so much."

The Redskins were able to overcome the barrage of penalties in the matchup with the woeful Texans, but they know they can't make the same mistakes this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

At least the linemen have Thomas' kitty for motivation. Not only did no one have to add to the pot this week, but Samuels won some of his cash back as a prize for the best hit -- a downfield block during a screen pass to tight end Chris Cooley.

"Randy hasn't paid me yet," said Samuels, looking toward Thomas' vacant locker. "He owes me $50."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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