The NFL announced Tuesday that as part of its stated commitment to “protect players from undue risk, while keeping the game fair, competitive and exciting,” it would implement new rules and highlight others for the betterment of the game.
Among the key priorities for the coming season: disciplining players for hits aimed at an opponent’s head, a Covid-19-related relaxation of the rules on how long injured players are ineligible and ensuring that players don’t tease each other too much.
The league made it a point of emphasis, telling officials to strictly follow taunting rules, which include automatic ejection of players who receive two taunting penalties in a game. The player may also be fined or suspended, or both, depending on the seriousness of his offence.
“The NFL Players Association, coaches and league committee have all made a strong statement regarding respect among everyone on the field,” the league said Tuesday in its annual rule changes and focus video. “We saw an increase in actions that clearly do not fit the spirit and intent of this rule and are not representative of the respect for opponents and others on the field.”
The renewed effort to enforce taunting rules will target “abusive or abusive acts or words” and “insulting, threatening or abusive language or gestures” toward players, coaches and game officials, as defined by the NFL’s Unsportsmanlike Conduct Rules.
But the broad and subjective definition of taunting could mean a crackdown on some of the game’s most spontaneous and entertaining displays of personality, including gestures that have become trademarks for some players.
In one of the most memorable moments of the last Super Bowl, Tampa Bay safety Antoine Winfield Jr. a peace sign in the face of Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill, mocking Hill’s usual touchdown celebration. Winfield was charged with harassing and fined $7,815 for the gesture, a fraction of the maximum, $15,450, that can be levied by the league against a player, depending on the seriousness of his action.
Hill was not penalized for showing the peace sign at Winfield en route to the end zone in a Week 12 game, the game that sparked his Super Bowl revenge.
Some notable examples of taunting last season, however, came beyond a stretch or two. The Ravens were flagged for taunting in their wildcard playoff win against the Titans after members of the defense celebrated a fourth-quarter interception by stamping on the Titans logo. Baltimore cornerback Marcus Peters, who pulled in the interception, was fined $15,000.
Peters and the Ravens retaliated for a week 11 pre-game incident in which Malcolm Butler and other Titans players gathered at the Ravens logo, leading to a confrontation with Baltimore players and coach John Harbaugh. Tennessee was not penalized for taunting.
In Week 8, Bears receiver Javon Wims was kicked out of a game and later suspended for punching the Saints defense against Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, leading to a midfield brawl between the teams that was broken up by officials. Wims said Gardner-Johnson provoked the fight by spitting on him and pulling out his mouthpiece. No one was reported for harassment.
Taunting calls result in a 15-yard penalty for the offending team, although flags for gestures such as stare-downs or first-down celebrations have declined, along with the NFL’s rolling back rules against over-celebrating touchdowns, which began in 2017. competition spent 10. fines for harassment last season and eight in 2019, down from an average of 24 flags per season from 2013 to 2018.
This spring, the competition committee sent its report to all 32 teams recommending that the on-duty department pay more attention to taunting, Reportedly because coaches on the committee felt that enforcement had become lax.
“Any blatant acts or comments that mock, mock, lure or embarrass an opponent are considered derision,” the report said.
Under the league’s new plan, that doesn’t mean nailing or spinning the ball, pointing the ball or a finger, verbally taunting, or standing or stepping over an opponent for too long or in any way that provokes him. Gestures simulating handcuffs would be considered taunting, as outlined in the report.
In the video announcement of the change, released Tuesday, the NFL used as an example a clip of Colts receiver Parris Campbell bowing to Myles Jack’s face after he was punched by the Jaguars linebacker in a game last season. , for which Campbell was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. It also included Browns receiver Jarvis Landry hitting the ball near a Texan defender after a first loss in a 2020 game. Landry was called up for taunting.