About halfway through practice this week, Sean McDermott approached one of the area officials the Buffalo Bills hired to call penalties during the workout to let him know the coach wanted to see more yellow flags thrown.
"You know, listen, you’ve got to fill a quota – about five a day – in order to get paid here," McDermott said.
He was only half-joking.
"There haven't been as many as I'd hoped," McDermott told reporters.
Which means his players either are getting the message they need to play cleaner or the local crew in zebra stripes isn't seeing the staggering number of infractions the NFL officials who worked the Bills' first two preseason games saw.
The Bills have accumulated 25 accepted penalties (35 if you include those that were declined or off-setting) for 237 yards in losses to the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles. They had 15 (along with six that were declined or off-setting) against the Eagles for 131 yards.
That prompted McDermott to take the drastic step of having the practices before Saturday night's game against the Baltimore Ravens officiated.
"Having the officials at practice is a big deal," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "That’s something that really kind of puts this on the players’ mind that it’s important to us beyond our just talking about it or penalizing guys in meetings or on the practice field about it. The fact that the officials are there and actually throwing the flags at practice kind of brings the point home that it’s not going to be tolerated.
"Hopefully, we’ll get better at it from a defensive standpoint and, I’m sure, from a team standpoint as well."
Even if there weren't as many flags thrown this week as McDermott would have preferred, the coach did see mutual benefits in the officials' presence.
"I know it helps them, the local guys that we’ve brought in, get ready for their seasons," McDermott said. "For us, it’s being mindful of our technique, being mindful of playing in the rules, and obviously just managing what goes on during practice. There’s flags on the ground so just the visual, I’m hoping, of them being around on a day-to-day basis moves us in the right direction with respect to the penalties."
What else can the coaching staff do to help curb penalties?
"We have our individual periods and we make sure that we’re stressing the proper techniques," offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. "Certainly (offensive linemen making sure their) hands are inside. You’ve got to put your hands inside and addressing that as it happens in individual (drills) and making sure that we’re on the same page."