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NFL approves ejection for two unsportsmanlike penalties

By The Sports Xchange   |   March 24, 2016 at 1:33 AM
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The NFL approved more rule changes for the 2016 season on Wednesday, including players being ejected if they commit two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the same game.

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 after injuries rose on the play in 2015.

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The new rules will be reviewed after the 2016 season, the NFL announced at the league meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.

"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 CEO and competition committee chairman Rich McKay said Wednesday.

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 expressed his opposition to the ejection rule.

"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 criticized NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for thinking the rule was necessary.

"I think it's foolish," Sherman said Sunday during an interview with ESPN. "But it sounds like something somebody who's never played the game would say, something that they would suggest, because he doesn't understand. He's just a face. He's just a suit. 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. They have two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties before they're ejected. The message from membership and from our clubs and from our coaches is that we're going to be held to those high standards.

"I think Jeff Fisher said it the best, started off the meeting by saying as coaches we are responsible for controlling our players. A second coach made it clear, while we've had points of emphasis on competition committee, they need teeth. And this is a rule that brought teeth to that."

Los Angeles Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he was supported the new rule.

"We need to do something there," Fisher said. "My teams have been involved in things on the field that just shouldn't take place. Not that I had players who were. ... I can't think of players who would have been ejected or were guilty of two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the same game, but we've had some instances on the field where I think we could have avoided it if we'd had a rule like this where you can get their attention."

Last year, the owners took a similar approach on a one-year trial basis when they agreed to change the line of scrimmage for extra points to the 15-yard line. That rule was adopted on a permanent basis on Tuesday.

Owners also approved the full elimination of the chop block and an expansion of the horse collar rule.

Here is the full list of new rules adopted that will be implemented next season:

--By Competition Committee; Permanently moves the line of scrimmage for Try kicks to the defensive team's 15-yard line, and allows the defense to return any missed Try.

--By Competition Committee; Permits the offensive and defensive play callers on the coaching staffs to use the coach-to-player communication system regardless of whether they are on the field or in the coaches' booth.

--By Competition Committee; Makes all chop blocks illegal.

--By Competition Committee; Disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. Amended to one-year only.

--By Competition Committee; Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line. Amended to one-year only.

--By Competition Committee; Expands the horse collar rule to include when a defender grabs the jersey at the name plate or above and pulls a runner toward the ground.

--By Competition Committee; Makes it a foul for delay of game when a team attempts to call a timeout when it is not permitted to do so.

--By Competition Committee; Eliminates the five-yard penalty for an eligible receiver illegally touching a forward pass after being out of bounds and re-establishing himself inbounds, and makes it a loss of down.

--By Competition Committee; Eliminates multiple spots of enforcement for a double foul after a change of possession.

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