The Week Four games contained a pair of touchdown celebrations that included the use of the ball as a prop. One of them (Panthers cornerback Josh Norman pretending to ride a horse with the ball apparently serving as the horse) drew a flag. One of them (Rams receiver Stedman Bailey taking a nap with the ball as a pillow) didn’t.
In the league’s weekly officiating video, NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino explained the purpose for the rule.
‘This is a rule that was put in place to prevent things from escalating,” Blandino said. “We had situations where players were using the ball as a prop. It was getting elaborate, it was getting extensive. And we were creating this animosity with the team that scored and then the team that got scored upon, and we were ending up with altercations, and this got out of control.”
Norman’s use of the ball as a prop definitely triggered animosity from the crowd in Tampa; at 8:16 of the video, a hand showing a middle finger to Norman appears in the foreground of the video.
Blandino acknowledged that Bailey’s conduct, like Norman’s, should have been penalized.
“We have continue to work to be consistent, in not just this area but every area, so we want both of these to be called,” Blandino said. “We certainly don’t want to take the fun out of the game. Players can celebrate, they can high five, they can fist bump, whatever it is. But they cannot use the football as a prop, they can’t do anything that would be considered in poor taste, something that would be mimicking a violent gesture, whether that’s a throat slash, whether that’s . . . a six shooter. Using the ball as a prop is a foul, and officials are being directed to call it when they recognize it.”
It’s unclear why the officials didn’t recognize Bailey using the ball as a prop. Then again, it’s still unclear why the back judge in the Lions-Seahawks game didn’t recognize the illegal bat that occurred right in front of him.