'No Fun League' loosens up as on-field NFL celebration rules relaxed
MANKATO, Minn. — The "No Fun League" has been downgraded in 2017 to the sometimes fun league after rules governing on-field celebrations were relaxed to allow NFL players to show a little more leg.
As usual, how much leg depends on how far players push the envelope.
Players can celebrate in groups and on the ground now while also using the football as a prop. But any celebration "deemed offensive, violent in nature or that uses any other object as a prop" can still draw a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Pantomiming a throat slash or shooting a gun is illegal. So is dunking over the goal posts. But dancing and twerking are to be subjectively interpreted by game officials, which means standards could vary from crew to crew.
"On the celebration, we're really looking at things that are in poor taste, which might be debatable," said Phil Luckett, NFL associate supervisor of officials. "But we all have a general feel for that. They took input from approximately 100 players about what they'd like to be able to do. This was collaborative.
"We're trying to keep the pace of the game moving; that's one guideline. The officials don't have a set time, but we cannot just let it go on."
The NFL is trying to increase pace of play and shave time off games. The 40-second clock will be activated immediately after the referee signals touchdowns, field goals and successful point-after attempts. So, players will be on the clock during end zone celebrations and between changes of possession.
Violations will result in a 5-yard delay of game penalty.
Luckett and three on-field officials visited Vikings training camp Thursday to discuss new rules and points of emphasis they will be enforcing this season, continuing the crackdown on cut blocks, blind-side hits and head shots on defenseless players.
Meanwhile, replay reviews and challenges have been centralized so that vice president of officiating Dean Blandino has final say in New York with input from the on-field referee.
Referees will be able to review plays on tablets brought to them from the sidelines rather than having to run behind the benches to replay booths, another effort to shorten games.
"The whole process of the review is the same," Luckett said. "But the final say, by rule, now is in New York."
Luckett, a former referee and 16-year veteran official, was asked whether referees were relieved or displeased to have final say taken away from them.
"The official is glad to have cooperation on the deal," he said. "We all have pride as officials. We want to get it right, if it's a big play. That's the priority. If we miss a big play, we need to get it right."