Carolina Panthers

NFL expected to approve new player ejection penalties

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) and Carolina Panthers' Josh Norman (24) tangle during a Dec. 20 game.
New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) and Carolina Panthers' Josh Norman (24) tangle during a Dec. 20 game. AP

New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham and Panthers cornerback Josh Norman combined for five personal foul penalties in a fight-filled game at MetLife Stadium in December.

But neither player would have faced an automatic ejection under a league-sponsored proposal that calls for officials to eject players who pick up two unsportsmanlike penalties in a game.

Owners are expected to approve the measure at the NFL’s annual meetings next week in Boca Raton, Fla.

After a few ugly incidents in a couple of high-profile games and a 50 percent increase in unsportsmanlike fouls last season, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said before Super Bowl 50 he wanted to implement a rule that would call for players whistled for two personal fouls in the same game to be ejected.

But the proposal that the rules committee will present to owners next week says players will be subject to automatic ejection if they’re whistled for two unsportsmanlike penalties in a game, specifically:

▪  Throwing a punch or forearm, or kicking, at an opponent, even if no contact is made;

▪  Using abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures;

▪  Taunting or baiting an opponent.

In the Panthers-Giants game at the Meadowlands, Beckham (three) and Norman (two) racked up five unnecessary roughness penalties, which are not a part of the rule proposal.

The most egregious was Beckham launching himself at Norman’s head after a third-quarter running play by the Giants. Beckham was suspended for a game for his actions, and league officials said he should have been ejected.

Falcons president and competition committee chair Rich McKay said game officials still have the ability to eject a player who’s called for a flagrant foul.

“We will certainly emphasize that in a flagrant foul situation the referee is empowered to have an immediate ejection for one foul. He doesn’t need to wait for that second foul,” McKay said Thursday during a conference call. “We will definitely make that a point to the officials that if they see that act and they believe it to be flagrant, they are empowered to eject the player from the game.”

McKay said only two players – whom he couldn’t recall – picked up two unsportsmanlike penalties in a game during the 2015 season.

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib picked up two personal fouls in Super Bowl 50 – for taunting and for a facemask on Panthers receiver Philly Brown. Because grabbing a facemask is not an unsportsmanlike penalty, Talib would have stayed in the game under the proposed rule.

Carolina safety Tre Boston also would have stayed in the Super Bowl despite two personal fouls, only one of which was unsportsmanlike.

The Panthers were called for five unsportsmanlike penalties during the regular season, including two on Norman in separate games.

Norman was flagged for riding an imaginary horse after returning an interception for a touchdown at Tampa Bay in Week 4, and he was penalized for an excessive celebration after breaking up a pass intended for Dallas wideout Dez Bryant in the Panthers’ Thanksgiving day victory.

As for why Goodell’s recommendation was tweaked, McKay said the league still can discipline players for personal fouls by fining them (ask Norman) and suspending them.

“We definitely talked about those, and we feel we have disciplinary ways to deal with the personal foul side,” McKay said.

A few of the 18 other rules proposals were notable, including:

▪  One submitted by the Panthers to expand the definition of intentional grounding.

The Panthers weren’t thrilled last season when opposing quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan flung the ball away nowhere close to receivers to avoid sacks. Carolina coach Ron Rivera, a member of the coaches’ competition subcommittee, brought up the issue during a meeting at the combine last month.

McKay expects Rivera to show video to the competition committee at the annual meetings next week.

▪  A call to make the longer extra point a permanent rule. PATs were spotted at the 15 yard line last season for the first time in an effort to make the play more competitive.

▪  A proposed rule to eliminate chop-blocks, which already have been outlawed in most cases.

▪  The NFL continues to look for ways to reduce the number of collisions on kickoffs. After moving the spot of kickoffs from the 30 to the 35 in 2011, league officials now want to spot the ball at the 25 instead of the 20 f after touchbacks to give returners more incentive to take a knee in the end zone.

McKay said the injury rate on kickoffs remains a concern.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson