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Celebrations Are Set to Be Flagged

March 30, 2004|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

PALM BEACH, Fla. — It isn't traditional fodder for NFL meetings, but team owners will get a briefing today on sprinkler systems and dice tossing, shoeshining and Texas two-steps.

Those are all premeditated celebrations, which, if the league's competition committee has its way, will result not only in fines but in 15-yard dead-ball penalties.

"We'll clean it up," said Tennessee Titan Coach Jeff Fisher, co-chairman of the committee. "There's no question whatsoever."

Coaches and general managers watched a videotape Monday of celebrations that were obviously choreographed: Teammates strafing the crowd the way a sprinkler would, pretending to roll dice or snap photos of each other, and, of course, the episodes with Terrell Owens and the Sharpie, and Joe Horn and the cellphone.

Owners will see the tape today and are expected to vote by Wednesday on whether the transgressions should be flagged.

Mike Pereira, director of officials, said the league isn't trying to quash creativity or stifle spontaneity -- the Lambeau Leap can stay -- but wants to discourage over-the-top displays.

"There's no way that we're talking about the one-man things and the high-fiving each other," Pereira said. "We're talking about those 30 different acts that occurred last year where it clearly was a choreographed act."

If the rule is approved, and it almost certainly will be, it will be the responsibility of officials to decide on the spot whether a player or players have crossed the line. To this point, the league has had the benefit of videotape and hindsight to levy fines. And the number of celebration fines has increased dramatically during the last three seasons with four in 2001, 19 in 2002 and 61 last season.

Atlanta General Manager Rich McKay was asked whether players can still be fined even if they aren't flagged.

"Sure," he said. "This is America."


The owners gave Commissioner Paul Tagliabue a resounding boost Monday, voting unanimously to begin the process of extending his contract, which expires in May 2005.

The extension probably will be for three years and is expected to be worked out in the coming weeks, said Pittsburgh Steeler owner Dan Rooney, chairman of the compensation committee.

The league has enjoyed unprecedented growth under Tagliabue, and the value of the top franchises has climbed ever closer to $1 billion.

"He's just been excellent for the 15 years that he's been commissioner," Rooney said. "He's taken the league to new levels.... I think it's obvious what we think of him."


The Kansas City Chiefs withdrew their proposal to increase the playoff field from 14 to 16 teams, an idea they first floated at the league meetings last year. The competition committee was not in favor of expanding the field. Among the problems: It would dilute the quality of the playoffs, and only one team from each conference would get a first-round bye.


Owners are mulling whether to increase the size of their practice-squad rosters from five to as many as eight players, all of whom would count against the salary cap.

The competition committee also has recommended changing the fair-catch rule so that if a player signals for one, he cannot advance the ball. He can do so now if the ball touches the ground first.


This is the final league meeting for Baltimore Raven owner Art Modell, who will hand the franchise over to Maryland businessman Steve Bisciotti on April 8. Modell, who is in his 43rd season as owner of the Cleveland/Baltimore franchise, was honored with a proclamation from his fellow owners Monday.

Among his many accomplishments, Modell played a pivotal role in negotiating the first major television contract and the collective bargaining agreement.

He was also a leader when it came to the league's revenue-sharing system, which he considers vital to the NFL's success.

"That's what led to collective bargaining agreement, which led to the salary cap," he said. "It's a series of events that made the game as great as it is. It started out with the revenue sharing."

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