BOCA RATON, Fla. – The NFL decided it was time to start putting some teeth into its efforts to maintain sportsmanship on the field.
That was why league owners voted Wednesday to implement, on a one-year experimental basis, a rule that any player who draws two unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties in a game be ejected.
The NFL is taking the step because there were too many physical encounters last season beyond those allowed by the rules. It also has seen too much taunting and verbal exchanges between players. Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL Competition Committee, said there were 75 unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties last season, more than he can recall.
“We’ve had points of emphasis in the past; they needed teeth,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said as this week’s league meeting at the Boca Resort and Club concluded. “Sportsmanship is important to us. The message from the membership, our clubs and the coaches is they’re going to be held to those high standards.”
NFL owners also decided to:
• Move the placement of the ball after a touchback on a kickoff from the 20- to the 25-yard line. This was also done on a one-year experimental basis. The idea is to discourage returns, considered the most dangerous play in the game, although there is some concern within the league there could actually be fewer touchbacks as kickers intentionally put the ball just short of the goal line;
• Allow teams to choose a player who has been on the injured-reserve list for at least six weeks to be activated once he’s deemed healthy enough to play. Previously, a team had to determine whether a player injured during the preseason or early in the regular season should be designated to return to the active roster. The Bills made this proposal;
• Table a proposal from the Baltimore Ravens to replace a list of reviewable plays with a list of non-reviewable plays until the owners meet again in May;
• Reject the Bills’ proposal for coaches to challenge all calls.