Sunday October 16th, 2016

Washington already had a bizarre run-in with the NFL’s excessive celebration rule earlier this season, when Josh Norman was flagged 15 yards for “shooting a bow and arrow” after an interception.

The Redskins probably won’t be too thrilled with the league’s crackdown on shows of exuberance after Sunday, either. Following his first touchdown catch since the 2014 season, tight end Vernon Davis mimicked a free throw and shot the ball through the uprights. He was given a 15-yard penalty. (You can see his celebration at the 10-second mark of the video below.)

An annoying penalty turned more sour for Washington on the ensuing kickoff. Dustin Hopkins had booted his first two attempts for touchbacks, but having to kick off from his own 20 because of the Davis penalty, he came up short. Philadelphia’s Wendall Smallwood fielded Hopkins’s kick and took it back 86 yards for the first kick-return TD of the 2016 season.

A few plays later, Kirk Cousins tossed a pick-six, thus erasing what was left of a Washington lead that had been 14-0 before Smallwood’s run.

Rule 12, section 3 in the NFL rulebook is what bit Davis on his post-score incident. Among the listed “prohibited acts” under Unsportsmanlike Conduct is: “Using the ball or any other object including pylons, goal posts, or crossbars, as a prop.” So, by the letter of the law, Davis violated the rule. Spiking the football is, of course, still allowed.

SI’s Jonathan Jones took a look earlier this season at the increased attention officials have been paying to player celebrations. Norman’s bow-and-arrow and Antonio Brown’s pelvic thrusts had been the most prominent examples prior to Sunday, but overall we’re spending way too much time discussing all of this. For a sport built on dazzling, highlight-reel plays, the league office really has gone out of its way to temper its players shows of emotion.

Davis didn’t do anything obscene and he didn’t show up the Eagles in any way. In the same way that arguments against the NFL’s catch rule often beg for common sense, fans are doing the same on the celebration penalties.

Let the players have a little fun.

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