INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Stephen Jones believes the NFL will crack down on flagrant personal fouls next season.
He’s just not sure what it will take for a player to get thrown out of a game.
After spending most of Tuesday inside an Indianapolis hotel, Jones emerged from an NFL competition committee meeting and acknowledged he expects the debate over ejecting players for multiple personal fouls to be resolved as early as next month’s owners meetings in Boca Raton, Florida.
The debate is all about the details.
“I think it’s not really about how many, it’s what personal fouls should be included,” said Jones, the Dallas Cowboys’ executive vice president for player personnel. “There’s more to it than that (a number).”
It’s yet another aspect of the growing concern over player safety in football.
In response, league officials have implemented stronger concussion protocols and supported moves to teach safer tackling techniques at all levels of the sport.
The competition committee, meanwhile, has recommended a series of rules changes in recent years to provide more protection on the field. Some of the alterations have included penalties for hitting defenseless receivers, restricting the use of the crown of the helmet by offensive or defensive players, and eliminating blind-side blocks, particularly on punt or kick returns.
New concerns emerged last December when New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was called for three personal fouls during a loss to the Carolina Panthers. Beckham played aggressively throughout the game, but some of his penalties were so flagrant it spurred a debate whether players with more than one offense in a game should automatically be ejected — like basketball players and coaches who receive more than one technical foul, or soccer players who receive two yellow cards.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during Super Bowl week he believes two personal fouls in the same game by one player should lead to ejection, and Jones indicated there’s not much dissension on that point.
And now that everyone is in Indianapolis for the league’s annual scouting combine, which begins Wednesday, the topic is front and center.
“We’ve had preliminary discussions,” Atlanta Falcons president and committee chairman Rich McKay said. “But it takes some amount of time to develop something like this.”
There has been no discussion of implementing an NBA-style rule based on the number of personal fouls assessed to individual players during the season because repeat offenders already receive bigger fines and more punitive actions under the current NFL system.
The NFL Players Association does not have to approve rules changes before they take effect.
League officials and the union have had some discussions about revamping the discipline process.
The other big issue for the competition committee on this year’s agenda in Indy is a retread: the definition of a catch. Over the past several years, fans, players and even coaches have argued vehemently they have had a hard time understanding the rule.
Jones said the committee has not looked at replays of Larry Fitzgerald’s reception in last season’s playoff game against Green Bay, which was upheld by a replay review, or compared it to the one Dez Bryant thought he made in the playoffs a year earlier at Green Bay. Bryant’s “catch” was overturned and ruled incomplete.
Yet Jones has seen no interest from committee members about making a change next season.
“We’ve gone over it again and I think the way we have the rule now certainly makes it a lot easier for it to be consistent with the officials,” Jones said. “Right now, I don’t see anything changing.”
Except, of course, when it comes to the most flagrant fouls in football.
“I don’t see any closure here (in Indy),” he said. “I do see we could come up with something out of Florida.”
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