Will NFL be kinder and gentler this year?

Not sure what to take away from Thursday night’s game between the Ravens and Carolina Panthers. The Ravens made too many mistakes, but they looked better on offense and pretty stout on defense.

Even though the Panthers scored a ton of points – largely because of four return touchdowns – the Ravens held Cam Newton and the Carolina offense to an average of barely three yards per play. Chalk that up to a much more coherent pass rush and run defense.

One of the things that really stood out, however, was the number of borderline personal foul calls during the course of the game. The officials dropped 15s on several players for hits that might have been overlooked last season, including a 15-yard assessment against Matt Elam for a late-but-light hit on tight end Greg Olsen in the third quarter that caused the crowd to break out in a rude chant.

Guess we’ll find out in a couple of weeks if the NFL has instructed officials to be even more vigilant this year in their effort to protect players from injury. It certainly seemed like they were on alert for anything that even smelled like a cheap shot. That’s just fine if they are trying to set the tone during the preseason, but not if it means changing a game because of mild contact after the whistle.

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