When the NFL announced and ratified the new rule changes yesterday, the sports world was all talk about how these new rules will affect the game. Some of these rules come out of changes in society and in how football is perceived, particularly issues around the NFL culture, and many feel these rules are “softening” a game most know as hard-hitting and gritty.
Among the rule changes are more enforcement of on-field taunting and abusive language. Certainly the issue with Johnathan Martin and Richie Incognito brought this issue to the forefront. There’s a locker room “culture” in the NFL. It’s uber masculine, testosterone and ego-driven competition. That spills over into language and behavior on the field during play and in the locker rooms, something the NFL now wants to control. According to USA Today Sports St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said this is also about player conduct on the field:
“We’re going to clean the game up on the field between the players — the in-your-face taunting, those type of things, the language,” Fisher said, noting it will be an enforcement of current unsportsmanlike penalty rules. “We’re going to raise the standard. … We are going to affect change immediately as early as the OTAs when players come back. We’ve got to change our conduct on the field.
“We’ve got to bring the element of respect to the highest level back to our game.”
Fisher said that the enforcement against abusive taunting will include banning racial or sexually offensive slurs. He added that locker room conduct was a large part of the discussion following the Jonathan Martin bullying scandal in Miami.
While the use of the “N-word” has certainly sparked some controversy between the older veteran and retired NFL players and the younger generation, it’s enforcement will now be at the forefront. The rule already existed; It just wasn’t enforced.
“In the past, taunting/sportsmanship was in the back of the book under points of emphasis. It is now a front-of-the-book issue.” competition committee member and St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “We want to put it back in the back of the book.”
The emphatic crackdown on taunting will result in more 15-yard penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct because Fisher said the league is trying to set the standard for college football and other youth levels of the game.
Other rules include measures that increase safety for players by preventing their legs from being rolled up by blockers and according to USA Today Sports, here are the other changes:
— Raising of goal post uprights from 30 to 35 feet.
— The so-called “NaVorro Bowman Rule” (named for the San Francisco 49ers linebacker) which makes plays in which a loose ball is recovered subject to replay review. The alteration stems from Bowman’s recovery of an apparent fumble by Seattle Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse that was instead blown dead by an official’s whistle in January’s NFC Championship Game with no review under previous rule.
— The game clock will no longer be stopped after a quarterback sack during the final two minutes of either half.
— A proposal by the New England Patriots to move the extra point attempt from the 2 to the 25-yard line was tabled. But the competition committee’s recommendation to have a two-game preseason experiment with extra points snapped from the 20 is now in effect, adding some excitement to a virtually automatic play.
While changes to the game itself will be of notice, fans will pay more attention to how players express themselves on critical plays, match-ups and post touchdown celebrations –which a new rule now prohibits “dunking” on the goal post.
One one hand it makes sense. The use of derogatory language, even if it is a part of the sport’s culture is still derogatory and abusive. It doesn’t matter intent or “ownership”, use of certain words and phrases can affect the game. However, it almost seems futile and senseless to try and regulate behavior around a game that is adrenalin-filled and fiercely competitive. Post scoring celebrations now seem normal–and taunting has been, at least for the most part, a part of the fun.
It will be interesting to see how many players actually adjust to this rule and how many actually get sanctioned for “bad behavior” on the field. There seems to be a change coming in the NFL.
Whether it’s ultimately for the good or bad remains to be seen.
What do you think”?
Your Jersey Girlfriend,