ORLANDO – It's become a point of emphasis for the NFL, and St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher pointed it out immediately when he addressed the media as co-chair of the league's competition committee Wednesday.
A lack of sportsmanship has become a problem, and the NFL intends to fix it.
"After looking at a lot of tape and after talking and consulting with different entities – the coaches subcommittee, the Players Association and others – we agreed that we have an issue on the field," Fisher said. "We agreed that we are going to get it under control as soon as we possibly can."
Fisher indicated that taunting penalties dramatically increased in 2014. And after reviewing game film, the committee determined several taunting incidents were missed.
"We've got to change our conduct on the field," Fisher said. "We've got to bring the element of respect in its highest level back to our game. So in addition to these things, sportsmanship was a significant topic throughout the last couple days.
"We are going to clean the game up on the field between the players. The in-your-face taunting, those types of things. The language, it's all in the (rule) book, it's all under unsportsmanlike conduct. There is no change in the rule; we are going to enforce the current rule."
NFL players serve as role models for college and youth football, and Fisher emphasized the importance of setting the right example for those younger players watching.
"If the college athlete sees something on the weekends that the pro athlete is doing, they, most of the time, are going to act the same way," Fisher said. "Colleges are adamant about sportsmanship on the field and celebrations and taunting and things like that. They don't tolerate it. Now, sometimes (the officials) may not see it, but we've got to get to that point where we can't tolerate it."
PLAYOFF EXPANSION: Commissioner Roger Goodell said it's unlikely the postseason will be expanded in 2014, but expansion could be in the near future.
"We had a good discussion on it on several fronts," Goodell said. "We have discussed it in various committees, including broadcasting. We had a full discussion on the floor with the owners and other executives this week. I think there's a tremendous amount of interest in this, possibly even to the point of support, but there are also things we still want to make sure we do right.
"We believe competitively it could make even our races toward the end of our season even more exciting with more teams vying for playoff positions, which is great for our fans. We still want to do some additional work, including talking with the players association."
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera expressed support for an expanded postseason.
"As a coach you love it because it gets two more teams into the playoffs," Rivera said. "So I like the idea. As a coach, I think it's great. I've heard people say it might water it down. I don't know if it does."
CENTRALIZED REPLAY: The NFL will introduce a centralized replay system in 2014 with the hope of making decisions more consistent and more time-efficient.
Referees will now consult with the officiating command center in New York when they review a play.
"It's still a referee review; he has the ultimate authority. We'll come to a consensus. We're certainly not going to let him make a mistake, but the referee has the final authority on the call," director of officiating Dean Blandino said. "We'll give him the information because we'll have already started looking at it before he even gets under the hood, and we can give him our input, put him in the right position to make the right call and we'll have discussion and come to a conclusion."
Said Rivera: "I think it's a good idea because the bottom line is we want to get it right. The more people that look at plays that are being reviewed, the better chance of getting it right."
MORE RULE CHANGES: Below is a list of other NFL rule changes that passed for 2014.
- Goalposts have been made five feet taller.
- Loose ball recovery is now reviewable.
- The clock will continue running following a sack.
- Dunking the ball over the goalpost is now illegal.
- A blocker cannot hit a defender on the side of his legs.