As teams begin their run to Super Bowl XLIX, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, Troy Vincent, has a message for the league’s players and coaches:

While postseason games are faster, more intense and emotional, and more physically and mentally challenging, players must maintain the professionalism they have displayed throughout the regular season. Show respect to competitors, officials and fans. Play hard, play smart, play safe.

As the game’s intensity heats up during the run to Super Bowl XLIX, the league’s emphasis on protecting players remains the same: Play hard, play smart, play safe.

Players already proved during the regular season that this great game can be better through the use of rules, technique and technology. This season saw penalty call declines of 26 percent for unnecessary roughness, 68 percent for hits on defenseless players and 43 percent for illegal hits on quarterbacks.

The NFL will expect that to continue, even as players kick it into another gear in pursuit of a championship. The league is making unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct a point of emphasis for the postseason.