The NFL voted Wednesday to institute a one-year trial of a rule calling for players to be ejected if they are flagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the same game.
The rule, which would have resulted in two ejections during the 2015 season, is aimed at curbing things like abusive language toward officials, taunting and fighting, which led to some objections from coaches because of fears that opposing players will try to bait players with one foul into a second one over the course of the game. During an appearance on Pro Football Live on NBCSN, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino told Mike Florio that the league will work with officials to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“That’s a concern and we talked about it,” Blandino said. “We really work with our game officials to make sure they get the instigator and to be aware of those things. See the entire act, don’t just react to a comment or something if you haven’t seen how it evolved. That’s something we’re going to spend a lot of time [on] with our game officials to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
There are plenty of examples each season of players being called for penalties after responding to the words or actions of another player, so that will have to be cleaned up if the league wants to avoid the kinds of situations outlined above. Blandino addressed another concern raised this week about players viewing this rule as being similar to fouling out in basketball.
“We really feel that ultimately the player is going to realize that if I get one, I’m one away from going to the locker room,” Blandino said. “When you talk to players, coaches, officials … nobody wants players getting thrown out of the game. We feel it’s going to have the intended effect that if I get one I have to walk away from this potential confrontation versus engaging.”
The rule can be adopted on a permanent basis next year if 24 teams vote in favor of it. The way the league and players deal with these two concerns will likely have a lot to do with how that vote plays out.