NFL players can still celebrate.
They just can't introduce foreign objects or any choreographed routines involving teammates into the process. If they do, it will cost their team a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, on top of a fine that is already in place for such infractions.
That was the biggest rules adjustment made as the league meetings ended Wednesday.
Feeling that Joe Horn pulling a cell phone from a goal post pad and Terrell Owens pulling a Sharpie out of a sock had taken touchdown celebrating too far, owners put their collective foot down by a voting 31-1 to add the penalty to the fine. The lone opponent was the Oakland Raiders.
The general feeling was since fining players wasn't doing enough to discourage them from excessive celebrations, putting them in a position where they could hurt their teams might do the trick.
In other developments from the meetings, owners:
- Approved a plan to expand practice squads from five to eight players. The NFL Players Association is expected to sign off on this as a change in the collective bargaining agreement because it creates more jobs. This is significant because it allows clubs to have more continuity in the development of players within their own systems and an NFL environment. It also permits teams to have more bodies available for workouts when regulars are injured.
- Made enforcement of the illegal contact rule beyond five yards an officiating point of emphasis. The general feeling was that too many defensive backs were getting away with making contact with receivers beyond five yards, and that that played a role in causing passing yards per game to dip to its lowest level in 11 years last season.
- Made enforcement of general sportsmanship an officiating point of emphasis.
- Rejected a proposal by the Kansas City Chiefs that would allow for each team to have a possession in overtime. The Chiefs withdrew another proposal to expand the playoff field by two teams when it became clear there was little support for it from the rest of the league.
- Approved a change to allow head coaches, as well as any player, to call a timeout. The idea is that instead of having to signal a player to call a timeout, coaches can call them more quickly from the sidelines to help their time management in the final two minutes of a half or a game.
- Extended by two days or to the conclusion of the wild-card round what previously was a five-day period immediately after the end of the season for interviewing assistant coaches. Front-office positions are also covered under the policy. The idea is to improve the chances for assistants to become head coaches.
- Approved making a punt, free kick or missed field goal that goes untouched by the receiving team a dead ball once it reaches the end zone or makes contact with a player on the kicking team in the end zone.
- Permitted wide receivers to wear numbers 10 through 19, even if numbers in the 80s are available. Teams that have retired jersey numbers in the 80s sometimes need to make special requests to issue numbers 10 through 19, or must un-retire 80-something numbers.
- Heard additional discussion on a proposed new stadium for the New York Jets on the west side of Manhattan. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said there would be further discussion, but stressed that even if the stadium is built, the league had made no commitment to use it for a future Super Bowl.