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Tough Call For NFL: What's Excessive?




Redskins defenders will do their best to make sure it's not really an issue. But you have to realize that the first potential test of the new "Chad Johnson" rule may involve them.

That's because Washington is at Cincinnati in the first week of the 2006 preseason, Sunday, Aug. 13, 8 p.m. The new NFL rule cutting back on end zone celebrations may, therefore, get an early test.

Johnson, the Bengals' creative wide receiver, did not score a TD versus the Redskins in the 2004 regular-season matchup between the two teams or in last year's pre-season matchup.

But his sometimes excessive end zone demonstrations are a major reason why NFL owners voted earlier this week in Orlando, Florida, to limit end zone histrionics, particularly those that involve what amount to stage props.

As we all know, Johnson has been known to pick up a pylon and practice his putting skills after pulling down TD catches from Carson Palmer.

NFL owners voted 29-3 (dissent reportedly came from Philly, Dallas and Tampa Bay) to curb routines such as Johnson's pylon putt, Terrell Owens' Sharpie gesture or Joe Horn's cell phone call. Even using the football as a prop would be out of bounds, although a simple spike remains acceptable.

New aesthetic principles will apply in 2006, which means that Johnson, T.O., Clinton Portis of the Redskins and scores of other players will be pushed to show off their creativity. At the same time, they'll be trying to prove that they can limit it.

Portis has turned cart wheels in the FedExField end zone and he's dashed into the front rows to hand TD footballs to his mother.

So, what's acceptable and what's out of bounds? We'll see in 2006.

Indy coach Tony Dungy says he can't wait to see what Chad Johnson comes up with in the coming season. San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer says excessive end zone melodrama defies team concepts.

Who's right? We'll see in 2006.

In general, some wide receivers and running backs stay up nights thinking about or practicing their routines. It's the cornerbacks and safeties who object, with good reason, to such theatrics.

Over the years, the Redskins have had some of the most notable end zone celebrators of all time. Think of the Fun Bunch or the Smurfs. How about Billie "White Shoes" Johnson, who played with the Redskins for one season, in 1988? His bandy-legged dances for Houston and Atlanta entertained some and infuriated others.

There's the point. The NFL may find it harder to legislate these excessive celebrations than simply to say that it plans to curtail such expressions.

After all, we're talking about emotional outpourings and human evocations played out before audiences of both puritans and cavaliers.

Which is not to imply that common ground does not exist. We can pretty much all agree that some of this stuff is not creative or imaginative but rather boorish and juvenile.

Now, when T.O. stomped on the Cowboys' star at midfield some years ago, he was universally condemned, correct?

Sure he was. Until Dallas overlooked T.O.'s previous antics this spring and took him in.

What was once boorish and juvenile suddenly became creative and imaginative, or so it would seem.

We'll find out in 2006, when the NFL adds theatre criticism to its repertoire. What's an outgoing player to do in the way of spontaneity once he reaches the end zone?

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