"That's a flag!"
"What?! That's not a flag!"
At some point in every football game you've watched, both of these phrases have been uttered at least once. It's only natural, mostly because, as fans, we don't really know the definition of a holding penalty except when we think we do – when our team is adversely affected by a play or call.
To be fair, NFL rules are always changing, and there are usually several bad calls during a game, especially because holding penalties can be so subjective.
On a recent episode of "Redskins Nation," offensive line coach Bill Callahan helped to clarify exactly what to look for, what he looks for, or what referees are looking for, when it comes to his big linemen getting cited for a holding call.
"I think the most important this is the point of attack and that's what the officials are focused on," Callahan said. "I know the referee and the umpire are now positioned in the backfield behind the quarterback, they're really focused on the offensive line and what they're watching for is whenever the ball is going right or left, that is where their eyes are going. So they want to see if there is any type of influence whether you're holding or impeding, is the word that they use across the NFL, if you're impeding the opportunity of a defensive player to get to that ball carrier that yellow rag is going to come out."
Callahan said he works with the O-line to make sure their arms are tight while the hands can be wide, outside or inside the frame of the body.
"But if they are impeding the defender from getting to the ball, if you see a little bit of a tear or a tug or a yank, that is when that yellow rag is going to come out."
While footwork has been fundamental in helping linemen get quickly into their blocking scheme, Callahan admitted that hand placement and speed has become just as important. Master Joe Kim, the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the 2015 season, who recently took a job with the Browns, came from a martial arts background and made hand drills a staple in pregame and practice warmups.
"The National Football League has become more of a hands league, especially at our position, the offensive line, combatting players on the defensive line that have attended MMA Academies, have trained with martial artists that know the hand skilled game, it's pretty complex," Callahan said. "So to keep up with that is more or less the winning edge in this league."