NFL, players far apart in how they see celebrations

NFL, players far apart in how they see celebrations

Hey NFL players: If you want a safe way to celebrate touchdowns and big plays, just hug it out.

Don't twerk. Don't pretend to shoot a bow and arrow. Don't even think about playing basketball with a football. And, never take your helmet off.

"Hugs are always legal," Dean Blandino, the NFL's senior vice president for officiating, said in an explanatory video earlier this month.

Not a hugger? No problem. You have options.

"This may seem crazy, but you can always just hand the ball to an official," Blandino also said in the video sent to news media and teams.

The league's crackdown on celebrations has resulted in more unsportsmanlike penalties. There have been 22 taunting penalties through Week 7, up from 13 at this point in 2015 and double the total after seven games in 2014.

"The rule hasn't changed in terms of what is and what isn't taunting," Blandino said, adding referees were advised to make it a point-of-emphasis call. "Fouls go up initially, and then as the players start to regulate their behavior and they understand where the bar is, we start to see the foul numbers go down."

But many players and fans don't understand why the league cares so much about celebrations. They're quick to call it the "No Fun League."

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith criticized the league last week in a series of tweets after former Giants kicker Josh Brown was placed on Commissioner Roger Goodell's "exempt" list because police documents revealed Brown admitted to repeatedly abusing his former wife while they were married.

"Celebrating a TD will get you fined but being an abuser can keep the checks coming in," Smith wrote on Twitter. "Gotta start taking the things that are important serious....and be consistent with the investigation and punishment."

In his video, Blandino said: "We're not trying to legislate emotion out of the game. Sportsmanship and player safety are the two top priorities in the game today."

No doubt, Billy "White Shoes" Johnson's dancing, the Ickey Shuffle, the high-fiving Fun Bunch and Mark Gastineau's sack dance wouldn't be tolerated. Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson would've been ejected for their creative celebrations.

"We talk about, we want to grow the business of the NFL and revenues," Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. "We see growth from 10 billion to 20 billion (dollars) by the end of 2022. We need more of that. We need guys to come out of the box. We need Antonio Brown twerking in the end zone. Kids shouldn't be fined for that. Guys should go out there and wear colorful cleats. That's our culture right now. This is this new era, this hip-hop and lifestyle era. We need to embrace that. You can't just put guys in a box."

Blandino explained that Brown was penalized for twerking because it was "sexually suggestive" and sends the wrong message to youngsters watching the sport.

"We don't want that out on the youth football field," Blandino said. "That's not the image we want to portray."

Dancing is fine - for the most part.

Victor Cruz is known for doing the salsa after he scores, but Odell Beckham Jr. drew a penalty for dropping to his knee and taking a pretend photo of his teammate.

"The salsa was fine but taking a Polaroid was choreographed," Blandino said. "If we let this go, players will try to outdo each other and it will lead to other things like players stomping on logos and players hitting players who stomp on logos, so we have to continue to maintain the standard of sportsmanship and professionalism that the NFL stands for."

Saints wideout Brandin Cooks tweaked his Bible-themed TD celebration after Redskins cornerback Josh Norman was fined for mimicking a bow-and-arrow shot following an interception.

Inspired by Psalm 144:6 - "Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them" - Cooks used to celebrate TDs in a similar way by shooting an imaginary bow and arrow. Now, he pretends to pull the arrow from his back but doesn't follow through with the shooting motion, kneels down and raises both arms toward heaven .

"What it's essentially for is God, thanking him and being able to glorify him in a different way than just crossing my chest," Cooks said.

Cooks was never fined for his celebration, but stopped it after Norman's fine because he didn't want to risk a penalty. Smart move because Blandino said players will be penalized for "anything that mimics a violent act or weaponry whether it's directed at an opponent or not."

Norman was exasperated after teammate Vernon Davis drew a penalty for shooting a jumper with the football over a goal post following a TD. Using the ball "as a prop" is illegal. The 15-yard penalty assessed on the kickoff led to a shorter kick that was returned 86 yards for a score by Philadelphia's Wendell Smallwood.

"When is enough, enough? Fans want to see excitement," Norman said. "They work their tails off during the week. They go to work 9-5 and they get a day off on Sundays to come out here and watch their team put on a show. We are entertainers, whether you like it or not.

"We want to have fun with the game, but it's like, 'Come on, man!' Who's in the office calling these calls? Who is making this stuff? It's ridiculous. If they want to say I'm outspoken about it, so be it, because this is what we do, man. Gladiators in the sport back in the day, they celebrated, they had their time, so why can't we have ours? It's just, I don't understand it. I really don't."

Norman later suggested he would pretend to tap a beer keg as a future celebration to mock the league's "hypocrisy" for their beer sponsorship.

"He has a point," Cooks said.

Beckham is a frequent offender, though his marriage proposal to the kicking net on the sideline two weeks ago was within the rules. Beckham was flagged and later fined for taking off his helmet after exiting the end zone while celebrating his winning 66-yard touchdown before he approached the net.

"They fine me for smiling," Beckham said.

Not quite, but almost.

NFL Power Rankings: 49ers up, Raiders down after Week 2

NFL Power Rankings: 49ers up, Raiders down after Week 2

1. Tampa Bay (2-0)
Previous rank: 21
“We’ve just got to make sure we stay humble.” -- Ryan Fitzpatrick

2. L.A. Rams (2-0)
Previous rank: 2

L.A. loves a winner. That bandwagon’s gonna fill up pretty fast. 

3. Jacksonville (2-0)
Previous rank: 7
Blake Bortles threw for 377 yards and four touchdowns. You might assume that was for the entire 2017 season. Or his career. Nope, just one thrashing of the Patriots. Jags are the new AFC team to beat. 
4. Kansas City (2-0)
Previous rank: 5
That Mahomes kid has 10 touchdown passes in two weeks. He’s gonna be a superstar. 
5. Minnesota (1-0-1)
Previous rank: 3
Best part of any Monday press conference? Mike Zimmer, on being asked why he cut his kicker: “Did you see the game?”
6. New England (1-1)
Previous rank: 3
Patriots counting lucky stars Jacksonville didn’t play like that in last year’s AFC title game. Jaguars had ‘em shook. 
7. Green Bay (1-0-1)
Previous rank: 6
That Clay Matthews penalty was absurd. Pretty hard to play defense these days. 
8. Philadelphia (1-1)
Previous rank: 1
Nick Foles wrote a book this offseason. Hope he sold a lot of copies. He’s headed back to the backup spot the second Carson Wentz gets cleared. 
9. L.A. Chargers (1-1)
Previous rank: 11
Philip Rivers has the offensive flowing like a category 5 rapid. 
10. Cincinnati (2-0)
Previous rank: 18
Bengals believe they’ll be just fine without Joe Mixon. Say that too many times and you’ll get committed. 
11. Denver (2-0)
Previous rank: 17
Something lost in the buzz around Marquette King’s ridiculous Jon Gruden troll video: He had to go on Amazon or to a mall and buy a Chucky doll. Probably weeks ago. This troll job was calculated. Pre-meditated. And pretty darn petty.  
12. Atlanta (1-1)
Previous rank: 12
Falcons still miss Kyle Shanahan. Maybe a little less than normal after Tevin Coleman went off. 
13. New Orleans (1-1)
Previous rank: 8
Saints nearly marched into a loss. To Cleveland, of all teams. New Orleans is lucky the Browns kicker stinks. Or stunk. Dude got cut. 
14. Baltimore (1-1)
Previous rank: 9
Ravens lost a tight one to the Bengals. Just a thought: Maybe they should cover A.J. Green. 
15. Carolina (1-1)
Previous rank: 12
So, let me get this straight. A defender gets ejected for a vicious hit on Cam Newton, then the rough-and-tumble QB goes right back in? Cam lucky to escape with only a shiner. Panthers, too. 
16. Pittsburgh (0-1-1)
Previous rank: 13
Steelers have so much talent, and so much turmoil brewing just beneath the surface. There’s a powder keg in western PA. A few more disappointing results and it will explode. 
17. Miami 
Previous rank: 22
Once again, the Dolphins are our lowest rated team without a loss. Somebody tell me how they’re winning games? They can easily snag a third against the Raiders in the Florida heat. . 
18. Chicago (1-1)
Previous rank: 19
Khalil Mack has played on national television his first two weeks in Chicago. Bet he sold a lot of jerseys as the country begins to realize he’s the best defensive player on Planet Earth. 
19. 49ers (1-1)
Previous rank: 20
The 49ers won a game that Richard Sherman says felt like a loss. He’s right. The Santa Clarans deserve to be 0-2. Squeaked one out against the Lions, though Jimmy G looks a little less handsome than he did this summer. 
20. Tennessee (1-1)
Previous rank: 24
The Titans won a game with Blaine Gabbert at the helm. Give Mike Vrabel a medal. 
21. Indianapolis (1-1)
Previous rank: 29 
Andrew Luck always gives his team a chance. 
22. Washington (1-1)
Previous rank: 10
The Washington football is schizophrenic. Good one week, unwatchable the next. And yeah, I know I have teams bobbing up and down these power rankings. I’m a mystery that way. 
23. N.Y. Jets (1-1)
Previous rank: 16
A rookie quarterback played well one week and terrible the next? Get right out of town. Sam Darnold’s gonna have to experience some growing pains. 
24. Houston (0-2)
Previous rank: 14
Losing to Blaine Gabbert gets you dropped like its hot. Come on, Houston. Be better. 
25. Dallas (1-1)
Previous rank: 26
Beating the Giants doesn’t make you good. Cowboys have plenty left to prove. 
26. Seattle (0-2)
Poor Russell Wilson. Seahawks are going to waste some prime years tearing this team down. 
27. Raiders (0-2)
Previous rank: 23
Derek Carr can’t win games all by himself. It seems like he could use an excellent defensive player creating havoc, a bonafide closer off the edge. Gosh. How could the Raiders find someone like that…
28. Detroit (0-2)
Previous rank: 28
49ers tried to hand Detroit a win. The Lions slapped it away with a crummy defensive holding call. 
29. N.Y. Giants (0-2)
Previous rank: 27
Big Blue has all these flashy toys, yet can’t give Eli one second to get them the gosh darn ball. Giants can’t protect a statue signal caller. Hard to imagine him staying healthy all year. 
30. Cleveland (0-1-1)
Previous rank: 31
The Browns find new and entertaining ways to choke each week. Here’s to hoping they never get good. Every league needs a punching bag. 
31. Cardinals (0-2)
Previous rank: 30
So apparently Mike McCoy might lose his job over David Johnson’s usage. Here’s a hint. Snap the ball. Hand it to him. Watch magic happen. 
32. Buffalo (0-2)
Previous rank: 32
The Bills are so bad Vontae Davis retired at halftime. Couldn’t take it anymore. 
Calling my shot right now: Bills will never, ever, get out of the 32nd slot. 

Khalil Mack dominates in Bears win with Raiders lacking pass rush


Khalil Mack dominates in Bears win with Raiders lacking pass rush

Ex-Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack did it again in Week 2. 

Eight days after showing the Silver and Black what they were missing, Mack followed up his Chicago Bears debut with another dominant performance in primetime. The 2014 No. 5 pick strip-sacked Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the second quarter -- one of six times Wilson was sacked on the night -- en route to Chicago's 24-17 win. 

Through two games, Mack and the Bears lead the NFL with 10 sacks. The Raiders, meanwhile, have two, and are 31st. 

Alone, Mack has as many sacks as the entirety of the Oakland defense. 

Before Mack suited up Monday night, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden was insistent that the lack of pass rush made him lament trading the two-time All-Pro for two first-round picks. 

“It doesn’t make me regret it. We made the trade,” Gruden told reporters at his press conference Monday afternoon. “There is going to be hindsight and all that stuff. We would loved to have had him here. I’m not going to keep rehashing this. I would have loved to have coached him. I would have loved to have had him here, but he’s not here.

“Somebody has to step up. We have to keep building our football team. That’s what we’re going to do. Hopefully we see more from Arden Key. Hopefully we see more from PJ Hall when he gets healthy. Hopefully we prove that, in the long term, we did the right thing.”

Mack won't play his first game against Gruden's Raiders until next season. Something tells me Gruden will be asked about the trade just about every day until then.