A Friday night Associated Press article trumpeted a self-serving NFL narrative without requiring that anyone from the NFL attach a name to it. A Saturday AP article trumpeted a self-serving NFL narrative with quotes that carried a name.
NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent went on the record to address the impact of the renewed emphasis on taunting, through five weeks and one game.
“We’re right where we need to be and we’re now seeing the correction we were looking for,” Vincent told the AP. “We saw the spike the first three weeks and now we’re seeing the decline. The coaches and the NFL Competition Committee are pleased. Coaches have told us their players are adjusting, they’re thinking about what they’re going to do, knowing it may cost the team. These are game-changing penalties for a selfish act.”
The reduction in taunting penalties doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a reduction in taunting. It’s possible that the fan and media blowback has prompted some officials to keep their flags in their pockets. For example, when Rams linebacker Terrell Lewis applied a rib-breaking hit to Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski in Week Three, Lewis stood over Gronkowski in a way that, based on the rule has been explained, could have drawn a flag. It did not.
It’s impossible to know, without studying every post-play interaction between every player from every game, whether there’s less taunting or whether the league (after hearing the intense criticism) has subtly adjusted the standard, in order to result in fewer calls — even if there aren’t fewer instances of the kind of taunting for which officials previously called penalties in the first two weeks of the season.