NFL is all set to ease up on celebration penalties, but still no twerking

Outcry about the No Fun League led to some changes at this year’s rules committee meeting.

The NFL is going to ease up on celebration penalties … finally. Roger Goodell released a letter that announced group celebrations, going to the ground, using the ball as a prop, etc., will now be allowed.

But they’re not going to completely surrender their reputation as the No Fun League. Anything with a little too much sexiness is still going to be verboten, stuff like twerking, hip thrusting, crotch grabbing, etc. Also banned still is anything involving a player mimicking a weapon (no bow-and-arrow shoots) or “prolonged” celebrations (gotta keep that clock moving). According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, dunking on the goal post is still a penalty as well.

The move is a response to criticism over a seemingly excessive amount of celebration penalties in 2016. There were 16 conduct flags through the first six weeks of the season, spurring complaints the NFL had become the “No Fun League.” In fewer than two months, more than $340,000 in fines was levied against players for violations like hugging referees, using the ball as a prop, and acts as egregious as a 1.5-second choreographed dance.

The change will be welcomed by officials and players alike. Scott Green, executive director of the NFL Referees Association, told SiriusXM Radio listeners, “Nothing is worse than someone going 80 yards for a touchdown and then we’re trying to figure out does that warrant a flag for what he’s doing in the end zone.

“We don’t really enjoy that. If we could get to a point where it would simply be fines by the league, that would be great. The issue we’ll still have is that guys can get pretty creative out there. The question of whether it’s a foul or not a foul, hopefully we’ll get closer to more of a black-and-white situation.”

That means snowangels are still allowed

Michael Bennett is still too sexy for the NFL, and this isn’t allowed

Terrelle Pryor can now legally do LeBron James’ “Silencer” celebration

Antonio Brown still can’t twerk, though

Chandler Jones’ 2 step won’t get him a flag anymore

Hugging the referee is still a no-no

Earl's hug

The new rule will give officials some leeway in calling these penalties, allowing them to issue an unofficial warning before a celebration can cross the line. However, since most celebrations come and go in a matter of seconds, it’s unclear just how effective a warning system will be.

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Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan takes shot at Indiana as he officially declares for NBA draft

Swanigan will head to the NBA after two years at Purdue.

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan has officially declared for the NBA draft, but not without one last shot at Indiana University, the Boilermakers’ biggest rival. He took to Instagram to express his feelings for both schools.

We don’t need that fabricated bs like the school down south. BOILER UP FOR LIFE !

Swanigan was one of college basketball’s best stories last season. He was a double-double machine who changed his body, and then his game to become a National Player of the Year candidate. Swanigan averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in his sophomore year with Purdue.

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Stop ripping Kelvin Benjamin because of a 6-second video

Don’t call people fat because of one internet clip.

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said last month that when players reported for voluntary workouts, Kelvin Benjamin showed up “a little heavy.” Everyone was still talking about Benjamin’s weight Tuesday, when video came out of Benjamin running routes during OTAs.

OK, we admit, Benjamin doesn’t run the quickest route here:

But fans could only fixate on his weight … from one six-second clip. Everyone just needs to calm down.

1. It’s just OTAs

Benjamin looks slow coming out of his break, but that doesn’t really mean much on the first day of OTAs. Sometimes during OTAs and training camp, coaches will instruct players to not go full speed, so Benjamin may be drawing criticism for running the rep the way he was directed.

And it’s not just OTAs. It was the first day of OTAs. Every player should have some rust to knock off at this point.

2. Benjamin has been fighting his way back from injuries

Benjamin is a big guy at 6’5 and with a playing weight of 245 pounds. He’s never been fast. He’s not going to run this drill the same way that, say, his new teammate Curtis Samuel — who is 5’11, 196 pounds and is known for his speed — would.

His size isn’t the only factor. Benjamin hasn’t really gotten back to form since he missed the entire 2015 season after tearing his ACL in practice. Last season, hamstring injuries slowed him down, but he’s focused on getting his body ready for this season.

“I need to be in the best shape of my life. That’s what we’re getting to,” Benjamin said, via the team’s official website. “I have to get back to being dominant.”

3. Reports suggest Benjamin did fine on Day 1 of OTAs

Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com said rookie cornerback Corn Elder had his work cut out for him against Benjamin:

It was an interesting debut for rookie cornerback Corn Elder, the Panthers’ fifth-round draft choice. Shepard and Kelvin Benjamin both made nice catches technically at Elder’s expense, but the rookie was right there and couldn’t have done much more from a coverage standpoint. Benjamin also made another catch where, with the help of an accurate throw, the defense pretty much was powerless.

Benjamin earned praise on Wednesday for his performance on a ball that he didn’t even catch. According to Max Henson of Panthers.com, Benjamin dove for a catch that he couldn’t haul in, but Rivera “rushed over to applaud the impressive effort.”

4. We go through this with at least one player every offseason

Every year, one player seems to get fat shamed. In 2015, it was Jameis Winston. A photo of Winston working out shirtless went viral, and it turned out to be the result of an unflattering angle.

Last year, it was Tony Romo, who was coming off offseason collarbone surgery. He, too, wasn’t overweight.

This year, it’s Benjamin’s turn. Both Rivera and Benjamin have said that the wide receiver needs to get back to his play weight. But one video from the first day of workouts in May doesn’t mean Benjamin’s weight is going to be an issue for him in the fall.

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Pain-free Tiger Woods: ‘I want to play professional golf again’

Tiger says that he hasn’t “felt this good in years” following his fourth back surgery.

Tiger Woods, following his fourth back operation, feels great and looks forward to getting back to the PGA Tour — when his surgically repaired back is ready.

“I haven’t felt this good in years,” Woods, who underwent fusion surgery in April, wrote Wednesday on his website. “I want to say unequivocally, I want to play professional golf again.”

The 41-year-old winner of 14 major championships has not teed it up competitively since the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic in February. After playing poorly and looking miserable, he cited back spasms as his reason for withdrawing from the event prior to day two.

Though Woods noted that he won’t be able to “twist” (or swing) for three months, he was exuberant about how things have gone since his most recent procedure.

“It has been just over a month since I underwent fusion surgery on my back, and it is hard to express how much better I feel,” he said. “It was instant nerve relief.”

Wood related that the operation was successful and as long as he follows doctors’ orders, he could be ready to continue his certain Hall of Fame career in some six months, which was the amount of time he expected to be out of action.

“It’s just a matter of not screwing up and letting it fuse. I’m walking and doing my exercises, and taking my kids to and from school. All I can do is take it day by day. There’s no hurry,” Woods wrote.

“Presently, I’m not looking ahead,” he added. “I can’t twist for another two and a half to three months. Right now, my sole focus is rehab and doing what the doctors tell me. I am concentrating on short-term goals.”

Woods reported that he went under the knife for the fourth time since March 2014 because he “could no longer live with the pain … We tried every possible non-surgical route and nothing worked. I had good days and bad days, but the pain was usually there, and I couldn’t do much. Even lying down hurt. I had nerve pain with anything I did and was at the end of my rope.”

That pain, which gripped him following impact when he swung a club, kept him out of the Masters for the third time in four years, which was “a huge disappointment.” He likened his decision making to what he went through before playing the 2008 U.S. Open — his last major victory, which he won while hobbling around on a broken leg and torn-up knee.

“I did everything I could to play at Augusta and was ready to go,” he said. “I figured, ‘Can I handle it?’ This time the answer was, ‘probably not,’” he said. “That shows the effect nerve pain can have.”

The former world No. 1 who is three tour victories shy of surpassing Sam Snead’s all-time mark of 82 looked to other players — including Davis Love III, Retief Goosen, Lee Trevino, Lanny Wadkins, and Dudley Hart — who had undergone similar surgeries and returned to successful pro careers.

“They have all come back and played. But more than anything, it made their lives better. That’s the most important thing … that I can have a life again with my kids.”

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Bruce Arians, who coached a 6-6 tie in 2016, loves the NFL’s new OT rule

Bruce Arians says the Cardinals couldn’t practice in the days after a grueling tie with the Seahawks in October.

The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks played 15 minutes of overtime in October, but couldn’t break their 6-6 tie. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians would’ve preferred if it took 10 minutes to reach that conclusion.

Arians told reporters Wednesday that he’s happy with a new rule change that seeks to cut down on wear and tear by trimming five minutes from overtime periods.

“I think it’s a safety thing,” Arians said. “You look at our game with Seattle, we could not practice that week, we did a walkthrough. We had 100 plays on offense and I’m sure the defense was about the same. If you have to come back and play Thursday night, you have no chance to even be ready to play a ball game.”

One of the concerns raised about the new rule change is the possibility that the receiving team could get the opening possession of overtime and milk the majority of the clock before kicking a go-ahead field goal. While the other team would be entitled to a possession of their own, that team could be left with little clock left to work with.

“People are worried about 10-minute drives,” Arians said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a 10-minute drive. I guess there have been a couple. If you get the ball ran on you for 10 minutes, you deserve to lose anyway.”

Had the overtime rule been in effect in 2016, Arians may not have had to tinker with his playcalling much. After the Arizona and Seattle traded field goals, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer connected with J.J. Nelson on a 40-yard pass play that left the team 5 yards from the end zone with just over five minutes left in overtime.

The Cardinals let the clock run to 4:22 before calling timeout, a minute before Chandler Catanzaro missed a 24-yard field goal that would’ve won the game for Arizona.

With less time to work with, Arians likely would’ve made different decisions. And there’s a possibility that more ties could be on the horizon for all teams with the change.

“Will it lead to more ties? Hell, who knows?” Arians said.

Back-to-back ties happened in 2016 for the first time in two decades, and there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to it. So Arians is probably right with his “who knows?” approach.

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Brock Osweiler says ‘film for the past 2 years’ proves he’s a starting QB and, uh, OK Brock

Osweiler was a starter. Just not a very good one.

Brock Osweiler’s 2016 was so bad the Houston Texans gave up a second-round draft pick just to get out from under his contract. They were eager to jettison the young passer despite having only Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden at quarterback behind him.

Yet even with a dire history as an NFL passer, Osweiler still believes he’s in line to start for the Cleveland Browns this fall.

The Browns’ offseason salary dump acquisition told reporters he’s “absolutely” a starting-caliber quarterback Wednesday, just months after his 72.2 passer rating ranked him second-to-last among NFL QBs. When WKRK The Fan’s Daryl Ruiter pressed him on the issue, he pointed to his underwhelming resume as proof.

Ruiter: “Are you good enough to be a starting quarterback in this league?”

Osweiler: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

Ruiter: “Why?”

Osweiler: “I think the proof is in the film for the past two years.”

While Osweiler has been a starting quarterback, he hasn’t been a particularly good one. He’s lost jobs to the injury-riddled husk of Peyton Manning and unheralded backup Tom Savage. His performance in Denver and Houston, where he was surrounded by top-notch receivers like Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, DeAndre Hopkins, and Will Fuller, was at best underwhelming. Only the presence of two of the league’s most intimidating defenses could buoy him to a 13-8 record as a starter.

His 5.8 yards per pass attempt last season was worse than players like Scott Tolzien, Bryce Petty, and Landry Jones. It ranked 30th out of 30 qualified starters by nearly half a yard. He completed only 59 percent of his passes (27th) and threw 16 interceptions while only tossing 15 touchdowns.

While he showed potential as Manning’s replacement in Denver in 2015 — and was rewarded with a $72 million contract because of it — his 2016 was proof he’s incapable of being a franchise QB. On the plus side, it did leave us with moments like this, where he somehow flung a fumble 7 yards in the air despite a clean pocket.

Former NFL wideout shared Ruiter’s skepticism.

However, he’ll have the chance to be the Browns’ opening day starter and continue a chain of quarterback misery that has haunted the franchise since its rebirth in 1999. Over the past three seasons alone, Cleveland has started Robert Griffin III, Cody Kessler, Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, Austin Davis, Brian Hoyer, and Connor Shaw behind center. This season, Osweiler will have to beat out Kessler, Kevin Hogan, and second-round draft pick DeShone Kizer for the top spot on the depth chart.

Osweiler is technically correct. The past two years prove he’s capable of starting for a playoff football team. But his club’s success has often come in spite of him rather than because of any sort of foundation-building play at quarterback. The Browns don’t have the kind of supporting cast that can lead the league in yardage allowed like the Broncos and Texans have the past two years. Cleveland’s defense gave up more turf than all but one team last season.

Take that into account, and you could see an even worse Osweiler in 2017. That is, if he can work his way into the starting lineup this fall.

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