As the Philadelphia Eagles return man was running parallel to the end zone, delaying his touchdown for maximum showboating effectiveness, a number of his teammates ran onto the field from the sideline, a clear violation of the NFL's "too many men on the field" rules.
The new wrinkle on Jackson's return was first noticed at BallHyped.com. Because he took a turn at the 6-yard line instead of running into the end zone, a number of his teammates and some coaches spilled out onto the field in anticipation of his touchdown, which didn't come until a few seconds later. A flag could have been thrown, bringing back the touchdown and sending the game to overtime.
Now, I don't think any flag should have been thrown on the play. The players weren't on the field before the snap nor during the runback. Their on-field exuberance had no effect on Jackson's touchdown. Sometimes officials need to look the other way, like a foul at the end of a basketball game. However, as BallHyped points out, this play came during the same week that the NFL made a huge deal about sideline behavior during punt returns, thanks to the dirty play of Jets strength coach Sal Alosi.
In a memo to each of the league's 32 teams after Alosi's trip of Miami Dolphins player Nolan Carroll(notes), it was stated that only coaches and substitution players are allowed within six feet of the back sideline stripe. As the picture above clearly shows, the Eagles have far more than that on the field, let alone behind the markings.
One week ago, you could have excused this because pushing out onto the field was a rule with loose enforcement, like jaywalking, illegal downloading or traveling in the NBA. Plus, Tom Coughlin was evidently on the field too, yelling at his punter. But the NFL can't enforce rules when it's convenient. This isn't like jaywalking because the NFL turned it into a much larger offense. True, the Eagles coming out wasn't a big deal in this game, but it may be in the future.
As for Jackson, you get the sense that Andy Reid allows his antics because he's such a great talent. But Jackson has shown in the past that his tendancy to hot dog isn't harmless. It can be a big deal. He almost got caught from behind on this play and could have had a penalty called on his team because he delayed scoring.
The theatricality of Jackson's celebrations are good for the NFL. The league needs more brash stars who have fun on the field and get opposing fans riled up with touchdown celebrations. Andy Reid doesn't. He needs to win. That's why he should tell his young star to tone it down ... at least until he gets into the end zone.
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