SAN FRANCISCO — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday he has recommended to the league’s competition committee that any player who is penalized for two personal fouls in the same game should be automatically ejected.
Goodell’s recommendation comes after a high-profile incident this season involving New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckam Jr. and Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman during a regular season game, plus a penalty-marred playoff game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I believe that the league should pursue a policy where if there are two personal fouls in a game, there’s an automatic ejection of the player,” Goodell said at his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference. “I believe that that’s consistent with what we believe are safety issues, but I also believe it’s consistent with what we believe are the standards of sportsmanship that we’ve emphasized. We should take that out of the hands of the officials.”
Goodell said the issue will be discussed further with the NFL Players Association and the competition committee.
The competition committee could make a recommendation to the owners of the 32 NFL franchises at the annual league meeting in March. Any rule change must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 owners.
“I think it’s something we need to discuss,” Giants co-owner John Mara, a member of the competition committee, said following Goodell’s news conference. “Is it going to apply to all personal fouls? Is kind of an incidental facemask type of deal gonna be enough to get a guy ejected? I think those are things we have to discuss. Overall, though, I think it’s certainly something that we’d be inclined probably to support. To me, though, it’d have to be severe enough personal fouls as opposed to something like an incidental facemask.”
Kansas City Chiefs Chairman Clark Hunt made a similar distinction.
“It may be not all personal fouls rise to that level. … I sort of thought about that a little bit,” said Hunt, also speaking following Goodell’s state-of-the-league address. “That’d be something that the competition committee could work though, figuring out what are the types of fouls that would rise to that level that could lead to an automatic ejection.”
Hunt said he could envision the measure being ratified by owners.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard it,” Hunt said. “I do think it’s something that the membership might support. Just sort of thinking about it, we’re involved in the soccer business as well, and it’s like two yellow cards and you get ejected from the game. That was sort of the first thing that came to mind when I heard it.”
Beckham was not ejected from a December game in which he was repeatedly penalized for on-field confrontations with Norman. But the league later suspended Beckham for one game.
The Steelers kicked a game-winning field goal against the Bengals to end their rugged playoff game just after two Cincinnati players received two 15-yard penalties. The first of those penalties was called on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Goodell also addressed other topics:
– He said the league will work to keep the Chargers and Raiders where they are.
The Chargers have announced they will remain in San Diego for the 2016 season but will decide whether to exercise their option to join the Rams in Los Angeles for the 2017 season. That option would transfer to the Raiders if the Chargers do not exercise it.
“We want to work to try to keep our teams where they are,” Goodell said. “As I said earlier this year, relocation is a difficult process. That was true in St. Louis, where we have a number of great fans. But it’s something from a business standpoint that becomes a reality.”
– Goodell formally announced that the Raiders and Houston Texans will play a Nov. 21 game in Mexico City. The game is on a Monday night and will be televised by ESPN, the network announced.
– Goodell said the league’s random air-pressure checks of footballs at games league-wide this season yielded no violations. The NFL has not released its PSI data publicly.
“The intent of what we were doing was not a research project,” Goodell said. “It was to make sure that our policies were followed, just as we do in other areas of our game operations.”
– He declined to say if the league would reinstate its four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady if the NFL prevails in its appeal of the federal judge’s ruling that overturned the suspension.
“That is not an individual player issue,” Goodell said. “This is about the rights we negotiated in our collective bargaining agreement. We think they are very clear. We think they are important to the league going forward and we disagree with the district judge’s decision. We are appealing that, which is part of the legal process…. We’ll let the outcome be dictated by the appeals court. When it happens, we’ll deal with it then.”
– The league is taking the human growth hormone allegations involving Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning seriously, Goodell said.
According to Goodell, the NFL began its own investigation immediately after the allegations, denied by Manning, surfaced but now is looking into the matter only in conjunction with other leagues and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
– The NFL is contemplating no changes to its marijuana testing under the sport’s drug policies despite its legalization in some states.
“We are not restricted, obviously, by the state laws,” Goodell said. “It’s an NFL policy and we believe it’s the correct policy for now in the best interest of our players and the long-term health of our players.”
– A day after DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said he is cautiously optimistic about completing a deal with the league to make changes to the sport’s system of player discipline and Goodell’s role in it, Goodell offered no specifics on those negotiations.
“We’ll continue the dialogue,” Goodell said. “If we can find changes, if we can improve that process, we will do that.”