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NFL might vote to rein in TD celebrations

3/28/2006 - NFL

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Bad news might be on the horizon for
Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and the other purveyors of outrageous
touchdown celebrations.

The NFL's competition committee is proposing a crackdown on
rocking the baby, teeing off like Tiger and anything else that
might be considered taunting.

This isn't particularly new. The league has smacked down
celebrators who went over the top before. Remember T.O.'s dancing
on the Dallas star in Texas Stadium? Or Johnson revealing a small
sign asking not to be fined by commissioner Paul Tagliabue?

Or, of course, Joe Horn's hidden cell phone trick in New
Orleans?

But committee chairmen Jeff Fisher, coach of the Tennessee
Titans, and Rich McKay, general manger of the Atlanta Falcons,
believe enforcement hasn't been strict enough recently.

"Individual celebration was getting out of hand," Fisher said
Monday at the NFL meetings. "The players' association was
unanimous in wanting to get this under control."

So spiking the ball in the end zone will be OK. And spinning it
on the ground, or dunking it over the goalpost. Dancing in the end
zone is fine, too, as long as it's not prolonged or a group effort.

Almost all other celebrations will be out if the committee's
recommendation to clamp down further on the frivolities is passed
by the owners.

The new emphasis on unsportsmanlike conduct penalties will call
for a 15-yard mark-off on the ensuing kickoff against the offending
team, and possible fines.

Players can't use props for any celebrations, and they can't be
on the ground when they do their thing. Asked what happens if a
player is tackled in the end zone and begins celebrating while
down, Fisher said it would be a penalty.

"Get up and dance," he said, prompting laughter at a news
conference.

"If they go to the ground to score and feel compelled to do
something, get up!" McKay added.

"We've allowed those things to creep back. They are not
necessary and should not be allowed."

The committee also will suggest:

• Down by contact calls be subject to instant replay review, a
proposal that was voted down last year. Currently, a play is dead
once the whistle blows and the ballcarrier is ruled down by the
officials. McKay said that last season there were 18 to 20 plays
when the ball came out of a player's grasp before he was ruled
down.

The proposed change would allow any turnover to stand if replay
showed the ball came loose before the whistle. No subsequent
runbacks with the ball would count, however.

• Modifying illegal procedure to allow receivers to flinch if
they get back into position before the play and the defense doesn't
react to the move.

• Toughening enforcement on pass rushers who hit quarterbacks
below the knees, as long as the defensive players could have
avoided making the hit. One play that didn't prompt such a point of
emphasis, McKay said, was in last year's playoffs on Cincinnati's
Carson Palmer by Kimo von Oelhoffen, then with Pittsburgh, that
severely injured Palmer's knee. McKay said it was clear von
Oelhoffen didn't make any intentional move to hit Palmer, but
simply rolled into the quarterback.

• Just like quarterbacks, one defensive player might be allowed
direct communication with the coaches next season. The committee
will recommend that a defense has the same option as an offense in
that area. As of now, quarterbacks get instructions through a small
speaker in the helmet until there are 15 seconds remaining on the
play clock.

"We hope to get away from offenses -- I don't want to say
stealing, so borrowing -- signals from the sideline [for
defenses]," McKay said.