Excessive celebrating will cost 15 yards now

NFL also cracks down on contact with receivers

April 01, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

PALM BEACH, Fla. - As the NFL owners meetings wrapped up yesterday, the league stressed two points: It wants celebrations down and passing yards up.

By a 31-1 vote (Oakland dissented, as usual), owners approved a measure that will crack down on excessive celebrating, allowing the issuing of 15-yard penalties for planned activities by two or more teammates and ejecting players who use such props as mobile phones and markers.

The NFL also announced it will direct officials to focus on illegal contact - a change resulting from passing yards dropping to an 11-year low (200.4 yards per game). The league's competition committee informed owners and coaches that the rule that penalizes defensive players who initiate contact beyond 5 yards will be strictly enforced.

"We felt we had to do something about passing yardage going down," said Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee.

The NFL addressed the increasing trend of choreographed celebrations by adding penalties on top of fines.

The move comes after Joe Horn's hidden cell phone trick and Terrell Owens' autograph session. Typical celebration such as the spiking of footballs, dunking over goalposts and leaping into the stands will still be allowed.

Another item that could have long-term ramifications is the possibility of the five-month-old NFL Network televising live games. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue acknowledged it probably wouldn't be a factor within the time frame of the new television contract, but said it could occur in the future.

Other rules changes, most of them minor, include:

Extending the five-day period immediately after the season for interviewing assistant coaches to seven days or the conclusion of the wild-card round. It also applies to front office personnel.

Expanding practice squads from five to eight players.

Allowing the head coach to call a timeout from the sideline.

Stopping the clock when a punt reaches the end zone.

Making it illegal for a receiving team to advance the ball once a fair catch has been signaled.

Allowing wide receivers to wear the numbers 10-19.

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