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Labriola on new TD celebration rules
May 26, 2017 10:05 AM | Bob Labriola
Ready or not, here is comes:

* Apparently, the future of the Republic wasn't being endangered by touchdown celebrations after all.

* At least that's one of the conclusions that can be reached after the NFL walked back its draconian stance on touchdown celebrations during league meetings earlier this week in Chicago.

* Admittedly, the look-at-me preening and histrionics that are at the foundation of touchdown celebrations are contrary to the concept of football being the ultimate team sport, and the majority of those displays are cringe-worthy at best, but the way the NFL reacted to such insignificant nonsense was tantamount to going after a mosquito with a sledgehammer.

* Penalties during the game, and then supplementing that with fines rising to the monetary level of the sanctions imposed for player safety violations was absurd. And the whole idea of an NFL official being some kind of gatekeeper of morality by having him count pelvic thrusts so as to determine how much twerking was allowed before it warranted a penalty flag was beyond absurd.

* Typically, the announcement was made in a way to make it appear as though the NFL was being magnanimous in coming to this conclusion. This time it was in the form of a letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell that read, in part: "Today, we are excited to tell you about another change that comes after conversations with more than 80 current and former players. We are relaxing our rules on celebrations to allow players more room to have fun after they make big plays. We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown. And players have told us they want more freedom to be able to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements."

* The letter went on to explain that using the football as a prop, making snow angels, and group celebrations with teammates now will be allowed, but that doesn't mean the absurdity has been eliminated completely. The NFL will use a 40-second clock after the official signals touchdown during which the players can celebrate - within reason - without fear of being penalized.

* Imagine. A 40-second celebration clock.

* Also according to Goodell's letter, "within reason" doesn't include "offensive demonstrations, celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game, and those directed at an opponent."

* The sum total of it all is that there still are going to be times when Steelers fans lose their patience with Antonio Brown because of a touchdown celebration - as was the case several times last season - but when that happens just do what I do: Let your mind take you back to Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2016, and the final 20 seconds of the win over the Baltimore Ravens that eliminated them from the playoffs and clinched the AFC North Division title for the Steelers. That was a play to be celebrated for years.

* On another matter, I've gotta admit, I never saw this coming. And by "this" I'm referring to the strong reaction from Steelers fans following the release of tight end Ladarius Green with a failed physical designation. For a guy who was a part of the team for one season, and who appeared in so few games during that one season, and played tight end, the reaction to the end of his time with the Steelers seems a bit over the top.

* One email from a distraught fan: "I love Jesse James, and he is coming along as a threat similar to Heath Miller. But he doesn't stretch the middle of the field the way Green did with his speed and athleticism. Is there a chance the Steelers try to target a tight end with a skill-set similar to Ladarius Green's. If so, how could that happen, and who would you have in mind?"

* And another: "Will the Steelers attempt to fill the void left by (releasing) Ladarius Green? He has a specific skill-set none of the Steelers current tight ends possesses. Although I do love Jesse James' reliability, will the Steelers make any moves to get a speedy, athletic tight end to do what Green can do? If so, who could we look at?"

* Just as a refresher, Green played in six regular season games - none in the playoffs - and he finished with 18 catches for 304 yards (16.9 average), and his one touchdown came in the victory over the New York Giants. Nice contributions, but hardly irreplaceable, and it's not as though Green's release is going to leave the Steelers offense bereft of weapons.

* Get a grip, people. Heath Miller deserves to be recognized as the greatest tight end in franchise history, and his on-field value came from his versatility in being a complete player at the position rather than being the more typical blocker-or-receiver one-dimensional option that's much more typical at the position. And what made him one of the franchise's all-time great players was a result of the kind of person and teammate he was to go along with those on-field contributions.

* In short, getting Martavis Bryant back is way more significant in the grand scheme of things than losing Ladarius Green.

* Besides the relaxation of the celebration rule, the recent NFL meeting in Chicago also produced changes to injured reserve/designated to return, and to overtime, and to the procedure of reducing the roster from 90 players to 53 players.

* Starting with the last item and working backward, it used to be that teams cut from 90 players to 75, and then about a week or so later came the cut to 53, which is the number teams are permitted to carry into the regular season. If there is a benefit to this new rule, it's this: The cut to 75 players always came after the third preseason game, and with most teams using their front-line players little, if at all, in the fourth preseason game, what that mean was the bulk of those snaps had to be eaten by a small group of guys.

* That one makes sense for a couple of reasons: it gives coaches more bodies to throw onto the field in the most meaningless of preseason games, and it gives some guys a final chance to put something on video that another team might find compelling enough to warrant a roster spot, or more likely a practice squad spot.

* Overtime now has been reduced from 15 minutes to 10, which is supposed to lessen the physical demands on individual players and their teams by reducing by 5 minutes the amount of playing time teams are afforded to break a tie.

* This one is simply compounding the stupidity of the rule change some years ago that eliminated the sudden death component to overtime. When Peyton Manning's Colts didn't get a chance on offense in a 2008 Wild Card Round loss to San Diego, and then when Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings suffered the same fate in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, the whining for each team to get a possession in overtime reached a crescendo. Boo-hoo. Poor Peyton. Poor Brett.

* By the way, there is not now nor was there ever a rule against playing good defense in overtime. On a historical note: in the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants, the Colts won in overtime in what the NFL always has called "The Greatest Game Ever Played." Regardless of whether that's true or hyperbole, overtime started with the Giants winning the toss and the Colts defense forcing a three-and-out.

* The final rule change being reviewed here is an addition to the injured reserve/designated to return possibilities for each team, from one player to two over the course of a season. This is the most welcome change to come out of the Chicago meeting, because the NFL increasingly has become a league where its annual champion is the one that's the luckiest in the quest to stay the healthiest. And like last year, a team won't have to designate which player(s) will return from injured reserve until it's time to bring one of them or both of them back.

* OK, we're done here. Start the 40-second clock. I'm about to celebrate the long weekend.
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