Dirty Laundry: (Il)legal celebrations

Watching Sunday night's game from NFC North blog headquarters allowed me to monitor your Twitter discussion more closely than if I had been at Lambeau Field, and one of the larger debates of contention came during a series of post-touchdown celebrations. There still appears to be some confusion about what the NFL does and doesn't allow, and why.


Not everyone understood why the Detroit Lions received a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration after tight end Tony Scheffler's three-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.

Some of you thought Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers deserved a taunting penalty for holding the ball aloft at the end of his 27-yard touchdown run.

And a few of you are still wondering why the Lambeau Leap is not considered excessive celebration.

First, let's quote from the 2012 NFL rule book. Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 covers the topics above. Among the acts the league considers to be unsportsmanlike are:

  • Using baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams.

  • Prolonged or excessive celebrations or demonstrations by an individual player. Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground. A celebration or demonstration shall be deemed excessive or prolonged if a player continues to celebrate or demonstrate after a warning from an official.

  • Two or more players engaging in prolonged, excessive, premeditated, or choreographed celebrations or demonstrations.

  • Possession or use of foreign or extraneous object(s) that are not part of the uniform during the game on the field or the sideline, or using the ball as a prop.

  • Removal of his helmet by a player in the field of play during a celebration or demonstration, or during a confrontation with a game official or any other player.

After Scheffler's touchdown, running back Joique Bell joined the celebration midway as Scheffler appeared to be mimicking the act of shoveling snow. That was a clear violation of the "two or more players" portion of the rule.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Bell's decision was "not very smart" and added: "It was one guy coming in and just in the moment right there and not making a good decision, not realizing the way that it would be interpreted."

Rodgers, meanwhile, raised the ball with his right hand as he crossed the eight-yard line on the way to the end zone. There were two Lions defenders chasing him and a third, cornerback Jacob Lacey, was closing in from Rodgers left.

In other words, Rodgers held the ball away from all three players as he ran. That's why referee Tony Corrente did not call him for taunting or baiting. Had Rodgers held the ball in the direction of any Lions player, that probably would have been a penalty.

Finally, we addressed the Lambeau Leap issue during Tuesday's SportsNation chat, but let's further enhance the answer. To be clear, the NFL wrote these rules with the idea of grandfathering in the Lambeau Leap. As long as only one player jumps into the stands, there is no penalty. By overt definition, it is not considered excessive, and it's only prolonged if the player is still in the stands when the extra point is kicked. Typically, players jump back to the field after a few seconds.

Hopefully that clears everything up -- until next time.

Now, on to our Penalty Tracker.