INDIANAPOLIS — Imagine Andrew Luck excitedly joining Donte Moncrief in the end zone, just moments after the two connected on a big touchdown at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Now imagine the two of them suddenly breaking into a coordinated "running man" dance to celebrate the occasion.
Flag. Personal foul; excessive celebration — right?
Not so fast.
In a letter written to fans on Tuesday, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league's previously stringent rules against certain types of celebrations have been lifted, giving players "more room to have fun after they make big plays."
"We know that you love the spontaneous displays of emotion that come after a spectacular touchdown," Goodell wrote. "And players have told us they want more freedom to be able to express themselves and celebrate their athletic achievements."
The league in recent years had changed the rules and instructed its officials to strictly enforce celebrations it deemed "excessive," mostly in the name of sportsmanship and pace of play.
But, in talking with many current and former players this offseason, Goodell reached the conclusion that several previously-flagged "offenses" were simply harmless ways the players could have a little fun on the field.
These examples include using the football as a prop after a touchdown; celebrating on the ground; and group demonstrations — you know, Luck and Moncrief breaking out the "running man."
Goodell did note, however, that the league and its officials will continue to pay close attention to celebrations that would be deemed inappropriate and/or ones that take way too long to develop.
"In my conversations with NFL players, it was also clear how much our players care about sportsmanship, clean competition, and setting good examples for young athletes," Goodell wrote. "That is why offensive demonstrations, celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game, and those directed at an opponent, will still be penalized."
Tuesday's announcement is the latest in a series of changes the league has enacted to "improve the pace of the game and minimize unnecessary disruptions to the action on the field." The NFL has also focused on health and safety, "including approving new rules prohibiting the "leaper" block attempt — a top priority from our players."
"We know we have more work to do," Goodell concluded. "We are grateful to the many current and retired players who engaged with us on this topic and we look forward to ongoing dialogue with them as we continue to work to improve this game we all love."
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