Carolina Panthers

NFL owners approve automatic ejection proposal for a season

The NFL’s automatic ejection rule, approved Wednesday at the NFL meetings in Florida, covers fouls for throwing a punch at or kicking an opponent, taunting and using abusive or threatening language. It does not cover the flagrant fouls that marred the Giants-Panthers regular-season game (above).
The NFL’s automatic ejection rule, approved Wednesday at the NFL meetings in Florida, covers fouls for throwing a punch at or kicking an opponent, taunting and using abusive or threatening language. It does not cover the flagrant fouls that marred the Giants-Panthers regular-season game (above). jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

NFL owners approved the two-strikes-and-you're-out proposal on a one-year basis in a move that followed a spike in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties last season.

Players called for two unsportsmanlike penalties in the same game will be automatically ejected. The rule covers fouls for throwing a punch at or kicking an opponent, taunting and using abusive or threatening language.

It does not cover the flagrant fouls that marred the Giants-Panthers regular-season game or the Bengals-Steelers playoff game last season.

The NFL plans to emphasize to game officials that they have the authority to eject players for flagrant calls independent of the new rule. But Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes officials will be reluctant to toss players out.

"I'm not sure the referees want to feel that they're changing the game and impacting the game that way. I think they want to do their jobs in just making sure the rules are followed a certain way," Rivera said.

"They know the big impact if you throw a big superstar out or a big-time player can have on a game. As a head coach you appreciate that. You don't want to see your best guys get tossed. But there are some certain ramifications that we all have to deal with afterward."

▪ Owners voted to move the spot of touchbacks after kickoffs from the 20 to the 25 on a one-year trial basis. It's a safety measure meant to reduce returns and ensuing collisions, but it could have the opposite effect.

League officials conceded kickers might aim the ball high and short of the goal line to try to pin returners inside their 25.

"We passed that for one year because we do want to see if it changes the (return) numbers and how it impacts the game because there is that thought that there will be some more short kicks," competition committee chair Rich McKay said. "We'll see."

▪ The league tweaked its short-term injured reserve policy. Teams are allowed to designate one player per season on short-term IR, but no longer will be required to do so the first day he goes on the list.

Teams now can wait until the player returns to practice before designating him to return. As in the existing rule, players still must sit out a minimum of six regular-season weeks.

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