- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2017

The NFL relaxed its rules governing player celebrations this offseason, but Josh Norman’s bow and arrow is still flag-worthy. Norman doesn’t see why.

“Jeez,” Norman said Monday morning, one day after a group of NFL officials arrived at Redskins training camp to explain the 2017 rules changes to players and the media. “Just shooting an imaginary bow and arrow? I don’t think you’re trying to take nobody out in the sixth row or something.”

Several forms of previously illegal celebrations are now legal. These include group celebrations, using the football as a prop, and players laying on the ground.

However, certain celebrations remain banned: anything considered violent or obscene, celebrations directed at an opponent, and using props other than the football. Norman can’t shoot his arrow and Antonio Brown can’t twerk. Vernon Davis can now dunk the football like a basketball over the goal posts, but he can’t hang off them, as they count as a non-football prop.

Carl Johnson, a 17-year NFL referee, explained that officials want to allow players to express themselves more creatively than before.

“[Let players] demonstrate their passion, their love for the game,” Johnson said. “Allow them to demonstrate that they’re having fun, within the rules. And it’s very limited what they can do, but now it’s not as limited as it was … I think it’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it.”

Norman, though, doesn’t see rhyme or reason to what’s legal and what isn’t. The New England Patriots are allowed to have “Militia Men” shooting blanks from muskets on the sidelines at every home game, but a fake bow and arrow is considered too violent.

“Come on,” Norman said. “Let’s be realistic here. Let’s not show two faces but one at the same time. I’m not trying to, like, point or you know, throw shade at the league or anything whatsoever … but gosh, man, can you just be a little lax about it? Don’t take it so serious? I don’t think anybody’s trying to take nobody’s eye out or nothing, so, I don’t know.”

There’s a part of Norman that would love to stick it to the league and celebrate as much as he pleases, but he doesn’t want to pick up flags and fines. He said that he’ll “have a little clever way of poking at it” in store for celebrations this season.

Along with the celebration rules, Johnson and his officials explained several other changes that were made for the 2017 season. Along with jumping over the line of scrimmage on field goal attempts now being illegal, Johnson said that defenseless player protection for receivers, blindside blocks and launching are all points of emphasis. The other change he spent the most time explaining came was one to the roughing the passer rule.

Pass rushers can’t wrap up at or around a quarterback’s knees, meaning that any contact with the legs has to be in the form of a swipe or grab. If a defender wraps his arms around a quarterback in the pocket’s upper body, he has to avoid the passer’s arms and shoulders as well.

Coach Jay Gruden said Sunday that the changes will be tricky to adjust to, especially at game speed.

“That’s always difficult, especially when they’re on their way down or if they’re getting pulled down,” Gruden said. “That’s gonna be difficult … if you get low like that and you’re crawling at the quarterback, you have to swipe his leg or pull it. That’s a point of emphasis, and something the pass rushers will have to deal with.”

Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, though, said that the rule about avoiding a quarterback’s shoulder will actually be more difficult to adjust to, particularly because it’s his instinct to go for the strip sack.

“The tricky part is if a quarterback has his arm up like this [in a throwing motion] and you’re going for the football trying to strip it and you hit him in the face, that could be 15 yards so that’s where it becomes a little bit tricky,” Kerrigan said. “But like I said, you’ve got to try to hit center mass and just wrap and roll… you’re minimizing the surface area that you can hit high it makes it even tougher but we have to adjust. We don’t have a choice.”

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