The most exciting play of the 10/2/2016, fourth week of the NFL, for me, was a legal hit by Atlanta Falcons Linebacker Deion Jones on Carolina Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton, as Newton jogged to the end zone for a two-point conversion. The jog, for those not familiar with Cam Newton’s show-boating style of play, is a deliberate pace Newton will use to make the defense look even worse for their inability to stop him, than they may have looked had he completed the play at full speed. Jones’ hit was not only an attempt to punish Newton for a slow jog, that was intended to humiliate the Falcons defense, it was revenge for a previous play in which Newton got in Jones’ fan to celebrate a first down, a play in which Newton was flagged for excessive celebration. Deion Jones’ hit not only wobbled Jones, it sent Newton to the locker room with a concussion.
Although I’m not for players getting injured, I am all for “on the field” justice. As it stands right now, the NFL permits an offensive player a number of different celebrations, and the defensive player is not permitted to retaliate for the offensive player celebrating. The player from the offense is permitted to walk off the field of play without any form of retribution for that celebration. I realize that the NFL attempted to make all celebrations illegal, years ago, and that that attempt resulted in a public relations nightmare that led to fans and writers calling it the “No Fun League”, but if the NFL is going to allow “some” celebrations and some showboating, within strict guidelines, they should permit “some” retributions for those celebrations, within strict guidelines. If I were to write this “retributions” rule, it would follow some of the other rules the NFL has instituted for other plays. It would permit “one player from the defense one shot against a celebrant that is below the head and above the knees, and it has to occur in the midst of the offensive players’ theatrics, or in an acceptable time thereafter.” This addendum to the celebrations rule, would allow professional football players to clean up their own in a manner similar to the manner baseball players and hockey players are allowed to clean up their game.
Cam Newton may be an excellent teammate, and an all-around good guy off the field, but I, like most football fans, only care about his on the field activities. On the field, a Cam Newton is emblematic of the “me-first” athletes that are not afraid to humiliate their opponents, because there is no real retribution for doing so. Part of Cam’s alleged charm that he is willing to mock other players, and walk away with the knowledge that those players can’t do anything to him.
“If you don’t want me to celebrate, don’t let me score,” Cam Newton said to those that have suggested that his celebrations were over the top. I would have less of a complaint if football were more of a mano y mano game, in the manner say boxing, tennis, or golf are. Cam’s line of defense suggests that the defense is trying to stop him, and him alone, and that they cannot do it. Yet, Newton has an offensive line keeping the defense away from him, and a number of different threats on the field that the defense has to consider before attacking Cam Newton. If the NFL were to allow “some” retribution, and perhaps allow Cam Newton to retaliate against the retaliation, that would result in a limited hockey-like scrum that the officials would allow for a period of time before it got out of hand, and league rules would prohibit anyone but the celebrant and the defensive player from participating in this scrum, Cam Newton could say something along the lines of: “You’re allowed to retaliate, I challenge you to retaliate.” As it stands, Cam Newton is protected from most hits by players, and rules, and he is allowed to celebrate in a manner that the defensive players are forced to walk away from, until it builds such resentment in the defensive player that a legal hit, such as the 10/2/2016 Deion Jones hit, is a lot more volatile than it would have been otherwise.