NFL votes to relax celebration rules, shorten overtime

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 08: A detail of the official National Football League NFL logo is seen painted on the turf as the New York Giants host the Atlanta Falcons during their NFC Wild Card Playoff game at MetLife Stadium on January 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

CHICAGO (AP) – The NFL wants to bring back a little bit of Broadway back to an end zone near you next season.

After years of limiting how and how much players could celebrate following touchdowns, the league decided to loosen up its rules, allowing players to again use the football as a prop, celebrate as a group and roll around or flap their arms like snow angels on the ground again if they choose.

In an email from Commissioner Roger Goodell sent to fans in an effort to deliver “a more exciting game experience,” the commissioner said the new guidelines came after conversations with more than 80 current and former players.

Asked whether he celebrated the new guidelines approved at Tuesday’s spring meetings, Goodell laughed.

“I did,” he said. “I can’t tell you how.”

Goodell said the moniker “No Fun League” had been thrown around since he was an intern in the league office. He welcomed the looser guidelines, also endorsed by Falcons President Rich McKay, who heads the NFL competition committee.

“The pendulum had swung a long way” in restricting players too much, McKay added.

The league, however, will continue to penalize any celebration deemed offensive or in bad taste, including those that embarrass opponents or mimic the use of weapons. If celebrations are deemed a violation by on-field officials, players could still be penalized under existing unsportsmanlike conduct and taunting violations, as well as fined.

“Everybody has a different idea where the line is,” the commissioner said.

There is no set time limit on how long such celebrations can continue. But the league is placing an emphasis on speeding up the pace of games. The 40-second play clock will begin once an official signals a touchdown and teams will have to snap the ball for their extra-point play at the end of the clock.

League officials will review celebrations during the preseason and anticipate providing guidance as the regular season progresses. Former player Jon Runyan, who is in charge of on-field disciplinary actions, will hear any appeals for players.

“I actually think it will be easier” for officials to determine which celebrations are appropriate, said Alberto Riveron, the league’s new senior vice president for officiating. “But some things will still be open to interpretation.”