The first taunting penalty of the 2021 NFL season has been handed out.
Tampa Bay center Ryan Jensen and Cowboys defensive lineman Carlos Watkins traded barbs just feet away from a ref, and whatever was said led to Watkins throwing a punch at Jensen, hitting his face mask. The Buccaneer looked at the referee and pointed at Watkins, and the official threw a flag as he jogged towards the two.
Jensen was called for taunting while Watkins was handed an unnecessary roughness call. The two penalties offset each other.
And fans weren't the only ones confused by the call. Another referee jogged towards the interaction, and the camera caught him with what could be described as a "yikes" expression.
The league decided during the offseason to put a point of emphasis on officials flagging players for taunting.
“The NFL Players Association, coaches and competition committee have all made a strong statement regarding respect among everyone on the field,” NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay said in the annual rule changes and points of emphasis video. “We saw an increase in actions that clearly are not within the spirit and intent of this rule, and not representative of the respect to opponents and others on the field.
"Game officials have been instructed to strictly enforce the taunting rules, and players and coaches are reminded that two taunting penalties committed by an individual player will result in automatic disqualification. In addition, the taunting player may be fined and/or suspended depending on the severity of the actions.”
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