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Relaxed celebration rules clear about what’s legal, NFL head of officiating says

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 18: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after scoring a touchdown by jumping into a Salvation Army red kettle during the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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Ezekiel Elliott still will get penalized for leaping into the Salvation Army kettle, but the Packers can feel free to have the entire offense do the Lambeau Leap. The celebration rules are clear, the league’s head of officiating said Friday, regarding what actions will result in a 15-yard penalty.

“Extremely clear, yes,” Alberto Riveron, the league’s senior vice president of officiating, said during the annual NFL Officiating Clinic in Irving, Texas. “We have plenty of film to show them; we have plenty of training videos that they will see that they have already seen. There is no gray area when it comes to that.”

Based on feedback from players, the NFL announced in May it was relaxing rules on celebrations. Players now can use the football as a prop after a touchdown; they can go to the ground; and they are allowed to have group celebrations.

“We have a lot fewer actions that are going to be penalties, and we’ll be able to focus on those and not have to worry about all the other ones,” NFL referee Carl Cheffers said.

But it isn’t anything goes. Prolonged celebrations, taunting and dunking over the goal post are among actions still banned and subject to a 15-yard penalty.

“There are some boundary lines that have been put in as far things they can’t do,” referee Walt Coleman said. “Things that are sexual suggestive. Things like a throat slash, shooting a bow and arrow. Things along that line that are violent and so forth. Those have been illegal. They are still illegal. . . . They can’t use other things as a prop. Those are still illegal like picking up the pylon and using it for a putter. They still can’t dunk the ball over the goal post. [The Salvation Army kettle] is a prop, so you won’t be able to jump in the kettle. Basically we’re going to watch what they do and let them celebrate, and if it gets excessive in length of time, then we’ll have to decide, but I’m not sure we know exactly what that length of time is.

“We know players are out there thinking up what they’re going to do, so it should be interesting and entertaining.”

Coleman is curious to see the reaction from defensive players, remembering George Teague’s response to Terrell Owens’ celebration on the star in Texas Stadium in 2000 when Owens scored for the 49ers against the Cowboys.

“Here in Dallas, obviously they know all about how they break up celebrations when they run to the middle of the field,” Coleman said with a chuckle. “So we’ve kind of come full circle as far as we stopped them from doing all that because people were breaking up the celebrations, and we were creating fights and things that weren’t very good presentation-wise for the National Football League. So now we’ve kind of come back around with the cooperation with the players and so forth, and they have asked to put some of the fun back in the league. So I think that’s what we’re going to try to do. So It’ll be interesting to see how it happens, because we have come full circle as far as where they could do it, then we got more and more they couldn’t do it, and now we’re back to allowing them to do some of the celebrations. The defensive players they don’t think it’s entertaining, so it’ll be interesting.”