The NFL is considering relaxing its anti-celebration rules, which apparently can’t come soon enough not only for players but also for officials.
“Nothing is worse than someone going 80 yards for a touchdown, and then we’re trying to figure out does that warrant a flag for what he’s doing in the end zone,” Scott Green, executive director of the NFL Referees Association, said Sunday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
“We don’t really enjoy that. If we could get to a point where it would simply be fines by the league, that would be great. The issue we’ll still have is that guys can get pretty creative out there. The question of whether it’s a foul or not a foul, hopefully we’ll get closer to more of a black-and-white situation.”
Green expressed similar sentiments during Super Bowl week, shortly after being named head of the NFLRA.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, speaking to reporters after adjourning the 2017 owners meeting in Phoenix last month, said he was confident the league would have a freshened policy in time for the 2017 season.
“I’d like to meet with a group of players to try to get more input from them,” Goodell said. “We also wanted to do a little more work on just bringing clarity to the rule while allowing players more ability to express themselves and celebrate. We want to see that. We obviously want to put (in) any reasonable safeguards against taunting and acts that we think reflect poorly on all of us.”
The NFL’s Competition Committee has been discussing the issue for months. Last season, there were 34 penalties that were specifically called “taunting” (including declined penalties), according to ESPN’s Stats & Information. That was up from 22 in 2015 and way up from just five years ago when there were a total of 9 called during the entire 2012 season.
Initial indications suggested the league would not change any rules but instead give referees more flexibility when determining whether celebrations violated pre-existing unsportsmanlike conduct rules.
The NFL announced Friday that Dean Blandino, who has been the league’s vice president of officiating since 2013, is stepping down, which could delay any decisions on rule changes.