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NFL looks at more severe penalties for pre-touchdown celebrations

Golden Tate's 'farewell gesture' to Janoris Jenkins attracted more attention that Tate would have preferred. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Golden Tate's 'farewell gesture' to the St. Louis Rams' defense attracted more attention that Tate would have preferred. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

RENTON, Wash. -- One of the very few offensive highlights in the Seattle Seahawks' 14-9 win over the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football was Golden Tate's 80-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. As Tate was heading to the end zone, he took a little extra time to showboat, waving good-bye to a couple of Rams defenders. It was an unwise move for Tate  -- he almost ran out of bounds, he was almost stopped before he got to the end zone, and he got an earful from head coach Pete Carroll when he got to the sideline.

And it didn't take long for the NFL to take notice. Tate told me on Wednesday that he was fined for the taunt, which netted the Seahawks a 15-yard penalty on the subsequent kickoff. The league is now considering adding the college rule, which takes touchdowns off the board if taunting penalties are applied on scoring plays.

“A lot of people felt that the touchdown shouldn’t have counted, [but] a taunting foul is always treated as a dead-ball foul, meaning whatever happened during the play counts, and the foul is enforced on the next play, which would be the kickoff,” NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino told the NFL Network (via Pro Football Talk). “In college, this action would take back the touchdown. Tate started taunting at the 25-yard line. The college rule, that’s enforced at the spot of the foul, so they’d go from a touchdown to first-and-10 at the 40, which would be a gigantic penalty. The NFL rule, it’s a dead-ball foul, it’s enforced on the kickoff. But I’m sure that’s something that the Competition Committee will look at in the offseason.”

Understandably, most NFL players and coaches would not generally be in favor of this -- starting with the head coach of the team involved, and the player in question.

"No, I think that's a terrible thing to do," Carroll said Wednesday. "I think it puts too much pressure on the officials to change the game like that. I don't think that's the time -- the actions that the league took in this case were warranted -- exactly. But I think that would be a terrible thing for an official ... to put it on a back judge to decide whether to take a touchdown away in a game. It should not be a part of what an official has to call. Throw the flag, do the normal thing, and then take care of business afterward.

"Taking a look at that situation, and just to say it again -- that's not the way we want to present who we are and what we're all about. It was a mistake that Golden has totally taken accountability for. We wish it wouldn't have happened for a lot of reasons, and the statement he made and we make about it is clear. There's no place for that in football. We don't need that at all. He gets the regular scrutiny he should get, and he'll take it."

As for Tate, he was just ready to move along.

"Yeah, I definitely heard from the NFL -- I definitely got fined, and I thought it should have been left at that," he told me. "Days later, the national media's still talking about that and still showing it ... I made a silly mistake by waving by. I've seen guys in the past do that, and do way worse, and not get talked about for days and days and days after. I've taken full responsibility for putting my team in a hole, and I don't need to draw that type of attention to my organization."

Tate didn't say how much he was fined, but the standard debit for a first offense in this case is $7,875, which is a decent enough hit for a guy making $630,000 in base salary in the last year of his rookie contract.

"Yeah - as of today, I've heard it from a few people that they're thinking about it, and that's fine," Tate concluded, with a bit of frustration in his voice. "If they're going to do that, do it and be done with it. But why are we still talking about it, guys? We've got another week of freakin' football. Why is it being highlighted as being a bigger deal than it is?"

A simple answer, really -- because it happened on Monday Night Football, and because the league has stepped in to opine on the subject. It's fair to assume that Tate won't do this again, but the next time someone does, Tate's celebration will be the NFL's "Exhibit A" in this case. Tate, who scored Seattle's two touchdowns, should now have the opportunity to move along as the Seahawks get ready to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, however, would be in favor of that new rule.

"I know it’s in the college rule, and I think it would eliminate those [taunting] situations,’’ he told ESPN.com's Vaughan McClure on Wednesday. "If you take a touchdown off the board, that could be very, very critical in a football game. I would be in favor of it.

"There’s no place for it. After you’ve scored a touchdown, there’s time to celebrate. But until you’ve scored a touchdown, you’ve got to get in that end zone, first. I think there are a number of examples each and every year where guys maybe start doing something too early and lose the football and don’t score.’’

An interesting take from a man running a team with just 17 offensive touchdowns this season, to be sure.

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