The flags kept flying, one after another.
First for an illegal contact penalty, when he grabbed Adam Thielen’s shoulder as the Minnesota Vikings receiver turned his route upfield. Then another. Then a pass interference call. Then defensive holding. Then two more illegal contact penalties to round out his day.
Amani Oruwariye drew six plenty flags in the Detroit Lions’ 28-24 loss to the Vikings last week, the most by any NFL player in a game this season. The more he followed Thielen around the field, the more it felt like he had a target on his back.
“It seemed like he was bulls-eye that game,” Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said.
After initially questioning several of the penalties after the game, Oruwariye acknowledged Wednesday he might have been a little handsy in his coverage of Thielen.
But as the Lions get ready to face another good 1-2 receiving combo Sunday in the Seattle Seahawks’ D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, Oruwariye said there is no reason to change his style of play.
“(The officials) kind of said something about my crab arms,” Oruwariye told the Free Press. “Obviously, visibly you could see the arms coming around the guy, which is something that I’ve done but maybe it was a little more subtle and I think just in that moment, once they called the first one they were looking for it, so it just kept kind of coming. Obviously, I’m not going to change who I am. I’m a physical corner, I’m going to keep being physical and challenging, but I’ve just got to be able to adjust as the game goes on.”
Oruwariye has made a living with his physical play.
He drew a team-high seven penalty flags in 2020, when he was flagged twice for pass interference and had five defensive holding calls, and was tied for second on the team with eight infractions last year.
But Oruwariye also had his best season as a pro in 2021, when he had a career-high six interceptions and emerged as a leader in the Lions’ secondary.
“The thing that you have to do is make sure you get yourself back up, man, come back the next week and be just as aggressive,” Glenn said. “But just understand, man, where your hands are at. If your hand’s up high, they see that. I think a lot of that was just the technique that he was doing that week. We talked to him quite a bit about that and he worked on it yesterday, and that’s something he’s got to continue to work on.”
Glenn said he has “full confidence in Amani” despite Oruwariye’s uneven start to the season.
Oruwariye spent most of the Lions’ Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles matched with A.J. Brown, who torched the Lions for 10 catches for 155 yards, and he missed a Week 2 win over the Washington Commanders with a back injury.
Last week, with the Lions focused on taking top Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson out of the game, Oruwariye spent most of the day in man coverage on Thielen, who caught six passes for 61 yards, caught a 1-yard touchdown on a busted coverage and drew five of the six of the penalties against Oruwariye.
“Not concerned at all,” Glenn said. “That hasn’t been something that’s been consistent with this player, and then I would say this, man, welcome to the NFL, the life of a corner. And the way they were calling it, they was calling every little thing that he was doing.”
Oruwariye said he expects opposing receivers to point out his penalty problem to officials going forward, but “so as long as I don’t give them a reason to call it” there’s nothing to worry about.
And coming off his best season as a pro, he likes the direction he’s headed three games into the year.
“This is my fourth year in the league,” Oruwariye said. “I have a great fricking support system, great teammates. Can’t worry about that, I got to keep going.”