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NFL will consider reining in celebrations just a bit

Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) and his teammates celebrate his touchdown against the Redskins during a December game at FedEx Field. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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The NFL seems to have gone a long way toward shedding its long-standing reputation as the “No Fun League” by relaxing its previously stringent restrictions on players’ on-field celebrations.

But it’s possible that the league will act this offseason to rein in those celebrations just a bit.

The league, at the suggestion of some teams, will give consideration to barring players from leaving the sideline to join on-field celebrations, according to people familiar with the NFL’s inner workings.

“If you’re on the field, fine,” one of those people said. “There would be no changes there. [But] there are some coaches and some clubs who don’t want to have players leaving the bench area to participate.”

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The competition committee is slated to discuss the topic this week during its meetings in Indianapolis at the scouting combine. If the committee makes a proposal on the issue, it would be presented to owners at the annual league meeting in late March in Phoenix and would need to be ratified by at least 24 of the 32 teams.

A violation of the rule, if enacted, would result in a 15-yard penalty being assessed. Currently, the rule book prohibits any celebration that involves baiting or taunting an opponent; includes a violent gesture or is sexually suggestive or offensive; or is deemed prolonged or excessive.

The NFL never wanted to be the No Fun League. It just happened that way — until now.

The league announced before the 2017 season that it would loosen its restrictions on celebrations, giving players more freedom. The NFL made using the football as a prop, going to the ground to celebrate (as with a snow angel) and participating in group demonstrations permissible.

The result over the past two seasons has been a series of elaborate, carefully choreographed celebrations of touchdowns by offensive players and turnovers by defensive players. The demonstrations have been generally well received, and the NFL is coming off a mostly successful 2018 season in which scoring was up and TV ratings rebounded.