I wrote here about the absurd personal foul that was called a few weeks ago against Josh Norman of the Washington Redskins for celebrating a big play by pretending to shoot a bow and arrow. This week, Vernon Davis, also of the Redskins, was assessed a personal foul for something at least as innocuous — shooting a jump shot with the football.
Davis is a native Washingtonian who played his college football locally at the University of Maryland. He went on to stardom as a tight end with San Francisco (where, bless him, he reportedly couldn’t stand Colin Kaepernick), but his career seemed to be over after the 49ers shipped him to Denver and he failed to make any impact there.
This season, the Redskins gave Davis a chance. Today, he started in place of injured star Jordan Reed. In the second quarter, he caught a touchdown pass.
It had to be a thrill for Davis — scoring his first touchdown in two years and doing it for his hometown team. Yet Davis’ celebration was subdued. He rose in the air, flicked his wrist, and shot a short “jump shot.”
The referee was having none of it. He flagged Davis for “excessive celebration.”
The penalty proved consequential. The Redskins had to kick off from their own 20 yard line, 15 yards further back than normal. Instead of booming a kick deep into the end zone for a touchback, as kicker Dustin Hopkins routinely does, Hopkins had to kick a returnable ball. The Philadelphia return man brought it back for a touchdown which put the Eagles back in the game (Washington held on to win 27-20).
The ex-ref in the broadcast booth explained that NFL rules bar celebrations that use the football as a “prop” — in this case as a basketball. Just why such a ban is necessary, I’ll never know. But if that’s the rule, then Davis violated it.
But later in the game, Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon celebrated a first down by spinning the football — a routine practice in the NFL. If a football can be used as a dreidel, why can’t it be used as a basketball?
NFL players perform under intense pressure in an inherently dangerous sport. It’s ridiculous to penalize them for having a little fun when they succeed.
The fun shouldn’t extend to taunting the opponent — that’s bad sportsmanship. But Davis didn’t taunt, he simply celebrated in a mild way.
Come on NFL, lighten up.