Yesterday reports were published that referees sent by the NFL to the camps of the Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings to reinforce the rule that if players taunt their opponents by spinning the ball, they will be penalized.
This comes from a rule that was developed in 2012 that increased the variations of celebrations that could be considered unsportsmanlike and therefore punishable by penalties during games. Celebrations included but weren't limited to, home run swings, military salutes, pointing and sack dances.
As the NFL continues to progress under the guidance of Commissioner Roger Goodell, it is apparent that, among other things, limiting the manner in which players celebrate is a priority for league discipline. Although these rules have been in place for a year now and haven't been fully enforced, a further progression of them could lead to an elimination of many forms of celebration. Players such as Santana Moss are probably mentally preparing to take their signature ball-spin celebrations out of their reetoire.
Whereas the Steelers have not been visited yet about celebrations, they certainly have their fair share of ones that new NFL rules may deem excessive. Everyone knows Antonio Brown's eccentric touchdown dance and his Santonio Holmes-esque first down celebration, but Steelers fans revere the "super-kick" sack dance of LaMarr Woodley.
It has been Woodley's stamp on a big play of his for years now, and can even be seen in the 2008 Super Bowl run after sacking Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter. Its popularity has grown so much now that he sells merchandise, including eyeblack, that highlight his dance. But isn't this a sack dance? Is this really something the league is trying to prohibit?
My guess is that eventually it may become more of a question down the road. As of now, it would seem safe to celebrate in such a manner, as the league has yet to fully enforce their celebration policies. But we have seen NFL referees be overbearing on the Steelers before for celebrations. Specifically in 2006, during a close offensive slugfest between the Steelers and the Saints, Willie Parker had a career day with 212 yards on the ground, including two 70+ yard rushes and two touchdowns. However after one of the touchdowns Parker celebrated in the endzone and was greeted by a lineman who jumped on Parker in the excitement and they proceeded to go the sideline. They were penalized for a "team celebration." While the rule did explain the NFL wanted to discourage excessive celebrations from entire teams, it seemed as if it was the referees being excessive at the time.
For now, Woodley can be safe. But if he has the kind of year fans are hoping he will have now that he has come into camp in-shape, teams will see more of his super-kick. And if teams see more of his super-kick, so will Roger Goodell. We all know how much Goodell loves to focus the attention of NFL disciplinarians on Pittsburgh outside linebackers.
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