LOS ANGELES: The NFL will test a new rule in 2016 under which players will be ejected from games if they receive two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, owners agreed at their annual meeting in Florida on Thursday.
The two strikes and you’re out rule was one of several passed on the final day of the meetings in Boca Raton, Florida.
Also adopted on a one-year trial basis, the league moved the touchback after kickoffs to the 25-yard line in an attempt to limit the number of returns, because injuries on the play rose in 2015.
The new rules will be reviewed after the 2016 season.
“We felt like we needed a rule to make sure the players are held accountable to do what they are expected to do,” Atlanta Falcons president and NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay said Thursday.
Such a rule, first mentioned as a possibility by commissioner Roger Goodell, has already divided coaches and players.
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was one of the supporters of the ejection rule.
“There will be more discussions, and there will be another set of meetings that will happen,” Rivera said. “But I think the attitude, the intent and the idea of making sure that there is some sort of discipline, whether it is at the referee’s discretion or through this mechanism of two strikes and you’re out, than that might make sense.”
San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly disagreed.
“You ever see ‘A Few Good Men?’” Kelly said. “Why the two orders? Right? If you already have the ability to throw them out of the game, why do we have to put a second order in to throw them out of the game? Throw them out of the game. If they’re not playing the right way, and we already have the ability to eject them, why do we have to put another order in?”
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said at the weekend that the proposed rule was “foolish”.
“It sounds like something somebody who’s never played the game would say, something that they would suggest, because he doesn’t understand,” Sherman told ESPN. “He’s never stepped foot on the field and understood how you can get a personal foul.”
On Wednesday, Goodell said it is up to players to follow the rules.
“It’s all within their control,” Goodell said. “Sportsmanship is important to the membership. We all have standards.”
In a game last season that apparently inspired the new rule, New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham drew three personal fouls over confrontations with Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, who drew two — but neither player was thrown out of the game.
NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino later said “ejections were warranted”.
However, the fouls handed out to Beckham and Norman were for “unnecessary roughness” rather than “unsportsmanlike conduct”, so it’s not clear if they would have been ejected under the new rule.