The Browns have implemented kickboxing gloves to help prevent defensive holding penalties.
BEREA, Ohio -- After meeting with NFL officials and going over both the new rules instituted for and learning what will be the points of emphasis in the 2014 season, the Cleveland Browns instituted new ways of practicing in order to limit their penalties.
Holding or grabbing at a wide receiver's jersey will result in a defensive holding penalty and an automatic first down for the offense. In an effort to prevent the violation, Browns' secondary coach Jeff Hafley has made his players wear kickboxing gloves during practice.
The gloves prevent defensive backs from holding the jerseys of wide receivers.
"You've got to get guys out of that habit," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "Instead of putting them in the full boxing gloves, that I think would really slow their stride down, they're more like sparring gloves.
"It's like a big mitten. The thumb can still come out. I just think it's more the mentality that they know they have to be able to cover more with an open palm than grabbing and restricting, especially if the rule is going to be called as tightly as we're told it is."
Hafley said the practice of wearing the kickboxing gloves is "just a reminder" to play with your eyes and feet, and not your hands, after receivers cross the five-yard boundary beyond the line of scrimmage.
"I think the guys like it," Hafley said. "We threw them on a couple. Then, the other guys started asking for them. That was good to see. They're all in it. They're all about it, from Joe (Haden) down to the rest of the guys.
"Hopefully, it makes them aware and we continue to work the things that are important. Regardless of the rule, I think it's a good training tool because I think guys need to learn to play with their eyes and their feet. Once we can get to that point of it, then, you start using the hands a little bit more."
Pettine sees the ability to jam wide receivers at the line of scrimmage without committing either a holding or pass-interference penalty as a matter of confidence.
"That is a confidence thing to trust your recovery speed, that I can let a guy above me, knowing that the ball still has to come over me and I can recover," Pettine said. "I think a lot of guys, they're used to playing it safe and they have a lot of balls caught underneath. We want to have the best of both worlds. We want to be slightly underneath and trust that our help over the top will get there or that I can recover."
Rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert said the gloves are not useful for him because committing penalties was not something he did on a regular basis during his college career at Oklahoma State, nor is it something he struggled with early in training camp.
"I haven't gotten any holding calls," Gilbert said. "We have a couple of guys that have a couple of holding calls, so that means everybody's got to wear the gloves. We wear them on and off. We pass them around with each other.
"I never really notice they're on until maybe a ball's thrown into the air and I can't catch it."
In fact, Gilbert's penchant for playing clean defense is one of the major reasons the Browns made him a top-10 pick back in May.
"You're always looking for that, how clean is a guy's slate?" Pettine said. "Because, to me, that means you lack confidence if you're fouling down the field. We have some guys that sometimes foul and they don't have to. That's important. We're glad that he didn't have that habit coming out of Oklahoma State."
Although the defense earned the right to again wear the orange jerseys by winning the challenge period against the offense in Tuesday's practice, Pettine saw a competitive practice on both sides of the football.
"I thought there was some good competition out there," Pettine said. "I was glad that the guys responded the way they did. I think this is a stretch of camp where you're tired of going against each other. Everybody is sore, and everybody has something going on.
"We've been urging our guys to go through it, to press on. We have to get better. We can't come out and just put days in and coast and just start looking forward to the preseason games. I thought our staff did a good job of getting the guys going, and the players responded. We felt we had a good day."
On Tuesday, the Browns released their first depth chart ahead of Saturday's preseason opener against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Pettine said he only released a depth chart "because I had to do it," and that they mean very little at this point of the preseason.
"At a lot of positions, we would have just slashed guys," Pettine said. "It's very loose in our minds. I wouldn't put a lot of credence in that. It will be very fluid and there will likely be changes after every week."
After leaving the field early during a practice late last week, safety Tashaun Gipson was back in pads Tuesday. While Gipson was limited to individual work, he is expected to be on the field again soon.
"He should get more work tomorrow," Pettine said. "I'll find out from (head athletic trainer) Joe (Sheehan) how he responded today. If things went well, he should be back getting team work tomorrow, and then, we'd expect him to be able to go on Saturday."
PADS WILL KEEP POPPING
Under the rules of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players' Association, the players must get two acclimation days at the start of training camp before the pads can be worn.
However, since that acclimation period came to an end, the Browns have been in full pads as often as possible, which is something Pettine will continue as training camp rolls on.
"We've talked about it being in pads up through the second game, and then, we would evaluate it from there, kind of where we are health-wise, kind of where we were, 'Do we need a day off from pads?'" Pettine said. "That's all stuff that we'll make that decision as we go, but up until game two, if we're allowed to be in pads, we'll be in them."