Sean McVay uses Jalen Ramsey penalty to explain his view on NFL’s taunting crackdown

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The NFL immediately came under heavy criticism when it was announced this offseason that there would be a crackdown on taunting after the whistle. Now nine weeks into the season and the emphasis on taunting has only angered fans more than it initially did.

There have been a number of instances where a player was penalized for celebrating in the vicinity of an opponent, even if it was as simple as a fist-pump in their direction. Jalen Ramsey was called for a 15-yard penalty against the Titans on Sunday night after he picked off Ryan Tannehill and stumbled over A.J. Brown along the sideline after being taken to the turf.

Sean McVay used that play as an example of officials getting the call wrong, not understanding Ramsey’s intent. McVay sounds split on the enforcement of the rule, saying there’s a fine line between actual taunting and the emphasis from the officials on cracking down on those plays.

“In a lot of instances, I think anytime you have a new rule that you’re implementing, there’s going to be a heightened sense of awareness on those types of things and you’ve seen some calls that have been made that are some judgement calls,” he said on the Coach McVay Show. “The one that occurred yesterday, for example, what it appeared to me – and again, I’m not criticizing, I’m just saying what it appeared. Jalen makes a great pick, he’s trying to get up. And you guys have seen when he makes an interception, he runs around, so he’s getting up to go run. It coincided with him running into A.J. Brown and then it looks like to me he’s actually getting ready to help A.J. up, and that results in him getting a taunting penalty which I’ve got a tough time really believing that that’s what Jalen was doing. I think the intentions were pure and unfortunately that didn’t help us out in that instance, but I know what Jalen was doing right there. I trust him, and I don’t think that’s what occurred. I think there’s a fine line. I think there’s been some that have been beneficial and then some just based on the heightened sense of awareness on that thing that maybe we’re making some calls that you want to be a little bit more mindful of.”

The league has made a point to stop players from celebrating in the face of an opponent or directing a gesture at another player. McVay is fully aware of that, pointing that out as part of the league’s crackdown on taunting.

“The big point of emphasis they make is if it’s directed at the opponent, if it looks like I’m fist-pumping at you or taunting at you,” he said. “Now, if I go celebrate with my teammates and it’s outside or away from whoever that player was that could be considered a potential target for the targeting penalty, those are the things they’re looking at.”

Players now have to think twice about how they’re celebrating and what they do after the whistle. Otherwise, it could cost their team like it did in the Bears’ loss to the Steelers when Cassius Marsh was inexplicably flagged for taunting after walking toward the opposing sideline.

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