ORLANDO – Coming in 2014...a kinder more respectful NFL.
Promising to “clean the game up on the field between the players” the league will more strictly enforce unsportsmanlike conduct rules this season, according to St. Louis Rams coach and NFL Competition Committee fixture Jeff Fisher.
“After looking at a lot of tape and after talking and consulting with different entities - the coaches subcommittee, the Players Association and others - we agreed that we have an issue on the field,” said Fisher.
“We agreed that we are going to get it under control as soon as we possibly can. We will be working with [VP of Officiating] Dean [Blandino] to put tapes together. Our taunting numbers increased from nine in 2012 to 34 last year and we are going to effect change immediately and that change will be effected as early as the OTAs when players come back. We’ve got to change our conduct on the field. We’ve got to bring the element of respect in its highest level back to our game. So in addition to these things, sportsmanship was a significant topic throughout the last couple days.
There’s irony in the fact Fisher is the one delivering this news. His Titans teams were among the chippiest in football in the 2000s with players such as Albert Haynesworth and Cortland Finnegan at the height of their powers. Just last season, at the end of a very lengthy diatribe against the officials, Rams defensive lineman Kendall Langford knocked the cap off an official and was ejected.
Gregg Williams, who was behind the Bounty-gate scandal in New Orleans is a longtime Fisher lieutenant and the current Rams defensive coordinator.
There’s little question the enforcement of unsportsmanlike conduct has been arbitrary from crew to crew. In the Ravens-Niners Super Bowl in February 2013, Ravens corner Cary Williams shoved an official and wasn’t penalized.
Fisher said that incidents – including offensive language – will not be tolerated. It will be interesting to see how different crews interpret relatively the relatively benign “You can’t cover me!” type of talk that is routine and where exactly the line will be drawn.
“It’s our opinion – the penalty is there – it’s black and white,” said Fisher. “The penalties increased, but we also feel like we missed some penalties. The incidents on the field have increased as well. We may not have flagged them all but we are going to raise the standard and Dean’s guys are definitely going to raise the standard.
“This is how we presented it,” Fisher explained. “The committee’s position on this, in the past, taunting and sportsmanship is in the back of the book under points of emphasis. It is now in the front of the book. It falls in our book right after all the statistical things which were good about our game last year. So it is now a front-of-the-book issue. What we want to do is we want to put it back in the back of the book. The in-your-face taunting, those types of things. The language, it’s all in the book, it’s all under unsportsmanlike conduct. There is no change in the rule, we are going to enforce the current rule.”