When two players who aren’t known for dancing and demonstrations after big plays provided a nod of approval for the NFL’s loosening of celebration restrictions, the league is on to something.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced in a memo Tuesday that the league is “relaxing our rules on celebrations to allow players more room to have fun after they make big plays.”
The change was one of a handful announced by the league. NFL owners voted in favor of reducing overtime from a 15-minute period to 10 minutes. Had that rule been in place last year, the Chiefs wouldn’t have won in Denver. Cairo Santos kicked the game-winning field goal on the final play of overtime.
In the last five seasons, there have been 83 overtime games and five ended in ties. Had those 83 games ended five minutes earlier, there would have been 16 ties.
In another change, there will now be only one roster cut-down deadline. Instead of cutting from 90 to 75 players before the final preseason game, there will be one deadline to cut to a 53-man roster before Week 1 of the regular season.
Also, two players are now allowed to return off injured reserve during the regular season instead of one. Under the new rule, two players per season are eligible to return to practice if they had been on IR for at least six weeks.
As for celebrations, the NFL will allow the football to be used as a prop after a touchdown, celebrations on the ground (no penalty for creating a snow angel) and group demonstrations.
Presumably, punting the ball into the stands, as Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters did on two occasions after big plays, or tossing tape at a referee while mimicking a penalty flag, as tight end Travis Kelce did last season, remain penalty-worthy moments.
But the Chiefs, even those who aren’t as animated after touchdowns or big plays, are happy about the changes.
“At the end of the day it’s entertainment,” Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. “It’s whatever floats their boats. If guys want to dance…”
Quarterback Alex Smith said he supports the changes.
“I agree with it,” Smith said. “Touchdowns are hard to come by. The great thing about the NFL is it’s an emotional sport. Guys sacrifice a lot, put a lot on the line. Those are big moments. Let guys celebrate a little bit, show their character, their personality.”
One Chiefs player who might ramp up his celebration game is defensive lineman Chris Jones, one of the team’s most animated players.
“I’ve got to give Mr. Goodell a pat on the back for that,” Jones said. “I’ve been waiting to do the worm, the stone cold stunner on somebody. I’m ready. I can’t get fined now.”