For a variety of reasons, the NFL has been coined as the “No Fun League”. With the league cracking down on excessive celebrations in recent years, players who have an animated side have received a bit of a headache. But now, that’s changing as the NFL relaxes its penalties and fines on such celebrations.
Aside from that, the league has continued to make rule changes to the overtime period, kickoffs, extra points and roster cuts. While some are welcomed changes, the new rules will alter the game of football, for better or worse.
The summer months of professional football are marked with fan excitement, as teams begin to see a first look at their squad in OTA practices. However, somewhat-overshadowing this excitement this year is these enigmatic rule changes.
While these rule changes obviously have league-wide effects, they also individually impact each team. All of the amendments have some form of impact on the Bengals—big or small.
This year, aspects that will have bigger impacts on Cincinnati are the changes with roster cuts and the Injured Reserve-designation to return. Instead of multiple cutdown days throughout the summer, teams will now be cutting their rosters from 90 players to 53 right before the regular season begins.
Because of deep competition at various positions, the team will have extra time to sift through the various options in each area of the roster. It also presents an interesting aspect particularly for the Bengals, in that other teams’ desirable commodities will be hung on to longer than before.
Cincinnati has recently added players who were let go during cutdowns to their final roster. Jeff Driskel was one such addition last year, while Brandon Tate was another high-profile one back in 2011. Both players were part of their prior team’s final cuts. With all roster cuts coming at once, there will be a lot more movement and business surrounding the final days before the season begins.
The IR-return amendment (teams can now bring back two players from IR instead of one) is also interesting for the Bengals, given their conundrum last year. Cedric Peerman and William Jackson III were both candidates to return from serious preseason injuries, but Marvin Lewis and the powers-that-be decided that a season that was close to being lost needed the veteran Peerman instead of developing a promising rookie in Jackson. Both were ready toward the end of the year, but the team felt as though Peerman’s addition as a running back — right after Giovani Bernard tore his ACL — could help more than adding a rookie cornerback.
Going forward, the Bengals, and every other team will get to bring back two players from IR, not just one. This should be a great rule change for all NFL teams as many players land on IR throughout the season.
When it comes to celebrations, the team doesn’t have the amount of showmen it rostered in the early years of Lewis’ tenure. Chad Johnson, Kelley Washington and others were known for their touchdown celebrations and subsequent fines that followed. This hasn’t been a staple of Lewis’ new crew, assembled since 2011.
While “The Gronk Spike”, Antonio Brown’s gyrating and other celebrations have grabbed headlines, only Jeremy Hill’s “Stay Turnt” dance has shown any kind of flair from The Queen City in recent years. But, has the NFL re-opened a can of worms?
For many, the league clamping down on celebrations has been frustrating. The NFL has almost seemed NCAA-like in its quest to limit showmanship. For the millennials who have engaged in the pro game, the image of a bunch of 80-plus-year-olds in a room squashing fun is apparent. For others who grew up in Barry Sanders and Walter Payton eras, it is a somewhat-welcomed sight.
While this rule change might not immediately affect the Bengals and their myriad of low-profile stars, there is a wide-ranging aspect to the rule change. In short, it comes down to a few questions. Will officiating crews be trained on the decisions surrounding penalties and these newly-relaxed rules and where is the line drawn?
Well, there are actually more than a few queries. How big of a spike is too long? Will celebrating a big hit be penalized? Will games be extended because of excessive celebrations? What happens when a comeback touchdown celebration with limited time remaining gets penalized and the opposing team uses good field position to regain the lead before the final gun?
The conservative Lewis will do what he can to continue to preach professionalism to the Bengals’ roster, but football is a game of emotion and momentum. Big plays occur and getting amped up following those plays is a spur-of-the-moment thing. Like any change the league has made, growing pains will ensue, but fairness in these brief moments might end up costing teams games.
Check out the audio clip of the new rules segment on this week’s OBI podcast via SoundCloud.