NFL

NFL not backing down from emphasis on taunting penalties

The NFL reiterated to teams this week that it plans to continue its controversial crackdown on taunting penalties, with 35 issued so far this season.

0
NFL not backing down from emphasis on taunting penalties

NFL officials' emphasis on calling taunting penalties this season has generated complaints from players, coaches and fans, but the league is not backing down from its stance. 

Multiple outlets reported the NFL sent a memo and video to its teams this week reiterating the new officiating philosophy

NFL officials have assessed 35 taunting penalties this season, ESPN reported, with 16 of them coming in the last three weeks. 

Perhaps the most controversial of those calls came in the November 8 game between the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Referee Tony Corrente flagged Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh for taunting following a third-down sack of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter, extending a Pittsburgh drive that ended in a field goal for a 26-20 lead in a game they won 29-27.

Though Marsh insisted he had simply performed the same sack celebration he has used for years, Corrente said he threw the flag because he saw Marsh turn toward the Steelers bench "and posture in such a way that I felt he was taunting them." 

Directing any sort of reaction at an opponent is a key trigger to the new points of emphasis, as NFL senior vice president of officiating training and development Walt Anderson reiterated in the video distributed this week. 

"Avoid any actions where you approach an opponent or his bench and gesture, posture or otherwise demonstrate any verbal or physical form of disrespect," Anderson said.

"Turn away. Take the opportunity to celebrate with your teammates and don't put officials in the position of having to make a judgment about whether or not your actions rise to the level of a foul. Remove all doubt and don't put yourself or your team at risk of a penalty."

The video included examples of what the league considers acceptable celebrations by players in addition to those that cross the newly established line. The ultimate point, according to the NFL, is to encourage sportsmanship not only among its players but among those watching them play. 

Bears head coach Nagy: "It can be over the top"

"It's an exciting game. It's a game that's very emotional, but there are times that some people are egregious with celebrating and it can be over the top," Bears head coach Matt Nagy told reporters recently. "I think probably the biggest message is 'let's calm this down a little bit' because people watch, and people want to see a little bit of respect and a little bit of doing things the right way.

"It doesn't mean you can't have fun, right? But there's young kids out there right now that are watching games and what happens is you go to some of these sporting events and you might see some imitation going on that's taking it over the top.

"I'm a firm believer in respect and just kids growing and watching, and we have a huge platform as leaders. I'm talking players and coaches.

"So let's understand what the rules are, let's do it the right way, let's still have fun - these guys are still having fun and not taunting, you can still have a great time - but let's stay within the rules when we do it. So that's probably why."

While Nagy and some other coaches have said they support the point of emphasis, New Orleans Saints head coach and NFL competition committee member Sean Payton expressed concern Thursday about the way it is being applied. 

"I think it's being over-officiated," he said on the Dan Patrick Show. "I don't think any of us who discussed it [on the competition committee] saw it going where it is now."