BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns are ready to rumble.
To prepare for the NFL’s crackdown on defensive holding this season, the team is making its cornerbacks and safeties wear boxing gloves during training camp practices. The smaller, mittenlike gloves — used by kickboxers and in mixed martial arts — are meant to deter players from latching onto jerseys of wide receivers, an allowable tactic in the past but one that will draw a penalty flag now.
When he first saw the padded gloves, Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden didn’t know what to think.
“I came out and we had boxing gloves on,” Haden said. “It was crazy.”
Not long after putting them on, Haden was beaten on a long pass by wide receiver Travis Benjamin, who came back on his route to haul in a throw from rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. Haden tried to get his hand on the ball, but the glove didn’t allow him to tip it away. Haden, though, understands the cross-sport technology.
“With the way they’re calling the game so tight now, they want to make sure we can’t grab or put our hands on a receiver,” he said.
Browns coach Mike Pettine hopes the gloves can help re-train defensive backs from clutching and snatching anything they get their hands on.
“You’ve got to get guys out of that habit,” he said. “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.”
During a scrimmage in Akron on Saturday, nickel back Buster Skrine and safety Johnson Bademosi were both penalized for holding. As tight end Gary Barnidge came out of a break on a pass route, Bademosi grabbed a handful of his jersey and got busted. Skrine, too, was too hands-on during coverage and was flagged by the officials.
Those infractions, and a warning issued by the league at the start of camp, caused the Browns to, well, think outside the box and break out the gloves.
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