The playoffs begin in three days. Millions will be watching each of the 11 games. The NFL, keenly aware of that fact, has made the teams keenly aware of the expectations regarding behavior.
“As you well know, there is no better time to be playing football than during our playoffs,” NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent said in a memo issued to all coaches and General Managers. “As we work together, we will continue striving to represent the NFL’s key values — respect, resiliency, integrity and responsibility to team.
“Your team is competing as one of the best in the world at what you do. With the nation and fans around the world watching, we are reminded of the responsibility we share to demonstrate the highest standards of sportsmanship and respect for the game, each other, the officials and the fans. Emotions will run high, but no emotion should give way to demeaning or offensive words or actions. Our rules prohibiting fighting, illegal hits, and abusive language will be strictly enforced.”
It’s an important reminder, especially with the Steelers and Bengals due to tangle for a third time this season on Saturday night. A week before the Panthers-Giants debacle in Week 15, the NFL was upset with the manner in which Steelers and Bengals players conducted themselves during a game at Cincinnati.
The real question is whether game officials, already reluctant to potentially affect competitive balance by ejecting players, will be willing to strictly enforce these expectations. Here’s hoping that they will; everything becomes magnified in the NFL’s postseason, including the embarrassments.