BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — The NFL is putting some bite in its on-field discipline.
NFL owners on Wednesday approved as a one-year trial ejecting a player who draws two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties from specific categories. Those categories include throwing a punch at or kicking an opponent; taunting; and using abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures.
It’s not quite as strong as what Commissioner Roger Goodell suggested during Super Bowl week when asked about players committing flagrant fouls. But it’s a step in trying to curb unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, which hit a high of 75 in 2015.
“Sportsmanship is important to the membership,” Goodell said as the owners’ meetings concluded. “We all have standards. They have two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties before they’re ejected. The message from the membership, our clubs and the coaches is they’re going to be held to those high standards.”
Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee that proposed the change, said the rule was amended from permanent to one season after feedback from coaches.
“We have made it a point of emphasis every time we felt like it’s beginning to cross the line,” McKay said of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. “We have not been able to affect sportsmanship in the way we think we need to, so this year we have another section on sportsmanship. We have specific points we are emphasizing on sportsmanship.
“But we felt like we needed a rule to make sure that the players are held accountable to what we expect them to do and how we expect them to conduct themselves.”
Also approved Wednesday as a one-year trial was placing the ball at the 25-yard line after touchbacks on kickoffs instead of at the 20. The league is seeking ways to reduce injuries on kickoff returns, which it says statistically are the most dangerous plays in the game.
Most proposals on expanding video replay in officiating were dismissed. A suggestion by Baltimore that would simplify the language in replay rules to make clearer what is reviewable has been tabled.
Expanding the use of video on sideline tablets, which many expected to pass easily, also was tabled until the May meetings in Charlotte.
“There was really good discussion from the coaches and some concerns on the technology side and the ramifications of using video,” McKay said. “We will use the Microsoft Surface (tablets) with photos on the sideline and will continue to discuss this.”
— Teams no longer will be required to designate the one player allowed to return from injured reserve as soon as he is placed on that list. Instead, they will have until the day before the player returns to practice during the season to designate him. That player must have sat out at least six weeks in the regular season.
— Goodell said reports of substantial progress in talks with the players’ union about reducing his role in player discipline were inaccurate.
“We are not close to an agreement by any stretch of the imagination on making changes on that,” he said. “But we are open to it and keeping an open dialogue with the union.”
— After Cardinals coach Bruce Arians called for full-time officials — “They need to all be professionals,” he said — Goodell noted that it’s been discussed for several years.
“We believe that at least in a limited form that it’s a positive step, so we agree with Coach on that front,” he said. “In fact, that’s something we fought for in our last labor negotiations with the officials is to be able to hire a limited number of officials, I think it was 16 or so, so that we would have the ability to have them in the office during the week. We could develop greater consistency, and consistency is really the core of what we’ve talked about all week here in officiating.”
— Goodell said the owners agreed this week to invest in additional research into concussions and the brain disease CTE.