Flags, ejections and suspensions: NFL to crack down on taunting this season

The NFL apparently didn't appreciate a taunting penalty in last season's Super Bowl making headlines.

Taunting won't be tolerated in 2021. 

In its annual rule change and points of emphasis video released Tuesday, the league announced that the penalty will be a point of emphasis for officials this season. That means two strikes, and you're out.

The league isn't changing rules. But it wants players to know that stringent rules already in place will be enforced. In the video, competition committee chairman Rich McKay mentioned ejections, fines and possible suspensions in store for players who taunt. 

"The NFL Players Association, coaches and competition committee have all made a strong statement regarding respect among everyone on the field," McKay said in the video. "We saw an increase in actions that clearly are not within the spirit and intent of this rule and not representative of respect due opponents and others on the field. 

"Game officials have been instructed to strictly enforce the taunting rules, and players and coaches are reminded that two taunting penalties committed by an individual player will result in automatic disqualification. In addition, the taunting player may be fined and/or suspended depending on the severity of the actions."

Did Winfield/Hill spat spur taunting emphasis?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. felt the brunt of the league's taunting rules after mocking Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the Super Bowl. With the game out of hand, Winfield flashed two fingers in Hill's face, a bit of revenge for the same taunt Hill flashed at the Bucs during a regular-season Chiefs win.

Winfield earned a meaningless 15-yard penalty and a $7,815 fine for the move. The NFL wants players to know there's more where that came from. 

Illegal forward pass penalty changed

The NFL also announced a a change of the penalty for an illegal forward pass from behind the line of scrimmage. Take, for instance, Tom Brady's second pass here last season in a game against between the Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams. His first pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage back into his hands. He threw a second illegal pass that got flagged.

ESPN currently has this scored as Tom Brady completing a negative-9 yard pass to himself, followed by a 17-yard pass to Mike Evans for two completions and a catch by Brady on the same play.

That’s some 🐐 stuff! #Buccaneerspic.twitter.com/tcVKehUYaF

— Billy Heyen (@BillyHeyen) November 24, 2020

Last season, this was a five-yard penalty. Moving forward, it will be a five-yard penalty plus a loss of down. The Rams, in the instance above, declined the penalty because the result of the play was a fourth down. They didn't want to give the Bucs another shot at converting. Based on this year's rule, they could have accepted the five-yard penalty along with the loss of down. 

An illegal forward pass that takes place in the end zone will now result in a safety, similar to offensive holding. 

The league also announced that illegal use of helmet will also be a point of emphasis for officials.

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