BOCA RATON — The NFL is putting some bite in its on-field discipline.
NFL owners on Wednesday approved as a one-year trial ejecting a player who draws two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties from specific categories. Those categories include throwing a punch at or kicking an opponent; taunting; and using abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures.
It's not quite as strong as what commissioner Roger Goodell suggested during Super Bowl week when asked about players committing flagrant fouls. But it's a step in trying to curb unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, which hit a high of 75 in 2015.
"Sportsmanship is important to the membership," Goodell said as the owners meetings concluded. "We all have standards. They have two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties before they're ejected. The message from the membership, our clubs and the coaches is they're going to be held to those high standards."
Falcons president Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee that proposed the change, said the rule was amended from permanent to one season after feedback from coaches.
Also approved Wednesday as a one-year trial was placing the ball at the 25-yard line after touchbacks on kickoffs instead of at the 20. The league is seeking ways to reduce injuries on kickoff returns, which it says statistically are the most dangerous plays in the game.
• Goodell said reports of substantial progress in talks with the players union about reducing his role in player discipline were inaccurate: "We are not close to an agreement by any stretch of the imagination on making changes on that. But we are open to it and keeping an open dialogue with the union."
• After Cardinals coach Bruce Arians called for full-time officials — "They need to all be professionals," he said — Goodell noted that it has been discussed for several years. "We believe that at least in a limited form that it's a positive step, so we agree with (Arians) on that front," he said. "In fact, that's something we fought for in our last labor negotiations with the officials is to be able to hire a limited number of officials, I think it was 16 or so, so that we would have the ability to have them in the office during the week. We could develop greater consistency, and consistency is really the core of what we've talked about all week here in officiating."
• Goodell said owners agreed this week to invest in additional research into concussions and the brain disease CTE.
RIVERA SUGGESTS HALTING INTERVIEWS: Ron Rivera has a suggestion for avoiding the kind of post-Super Bowl meltdown Cam Newton had last month.
Dump player interviews after the game.
Asked about the league MVP's virtually unresponsive manner after the 24-10 loss to Denver, Rivera's voice grew more and more passionate.
He said perhaps only the coach of the losing side should meet with the media after the Super Bowl. He doesn't think players should be asked to relive so soon losing the biggest game of their career, emphasizing several times that his All-Pro quarterback was showing "raw emotion" after a "crushing blow" of a defeat.
"I've mentioned it a few times," Rivera said. "I get it. I understand how important it is to get raw emotion. At least show the appreciation this is hard — it's a difficult thing to do after a loss. Let's at least anticipate and expect this will be a tough thing."
Rivera appreciated that Newton admitted to being a poor loser, saying, "he told the truth."
Rivera criticized the NFL for placing both winning and losing players at podiums close to each other after the Super Bowl. Newton and other Panthers could hear firsthand the elation of the Broncos and their celebratory comments. "They shouldn't put the two teams in the same room," he said. "Maybe a solution is that."