Archive for Friday, July 27, 2001

NFL cracking down on trash talk

Marcus Allen narrates 8 1/2-minute video that will be shown to each team during training camp

July 27, 2001

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We've seen enough of that in-your-face, trash-talking garbage on the football field.

And we're not talking just XFL, either.

We saw enough of that thuggery last season in the NFL, which thankfully has decided to do something about it.

After a season in which Oakland's Regan Upshaw spit in the face of Pittsburgh punter Josh Miller, and San Francisco's Terrell Owens twice desecrated the star in the middle of Texas Stadium, the league has decided to crack down on ugly incidents that scar its sacred landscape.

Officials have been told this year to strictly enforce the taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct statutes already on the books.

To make its players aware of its intentions, the NFL has produced an 8 1/2-minute video on sportsmanship, narrated by Marcus Allen, which will be shown to each team during training camp.

One of the stars of the video is the Giants' Jessie Armstead, who is portrayed as a bad guy and a good guy. Armstead's jawing with Daunte Culpepper after he cut down the Minnesota quarterback in the NFC title game is an example of what won't be tolerated in 2001.

Armstead's embracing Baltimore tight end Shannon Sharpe following Super Bowl XXXV is given as an example of what the NFL wants to see from its performers.

"I've got to be myself," Armstead said Thursday when informed about the video he and his teammates will view next week. "But if it winds up in any way hurting the team, then I'm going to find a way to get around it."

The feisty Armstead may need to draw a flag or two before he realizes the ramifications of the crackdown. "I don't go out there to make a player feel less, I go out there to make myself feel greater," he said.

In the Culpepper incident, Armstead said he wanted to remind the quarterback he wasn't "playing against the same linebackers he played against last week (against New Orleans)." After he got up, Culpepper shoved Armstead out of the way, and the Giants linebacker did not shove back. "They always catch the second guy," he said.

If that same sequence happens this season, Armstead might as well shove back. He already would have drawn a penalty for his taunting.

While Armstead may be using bravado as a self-igniter, the image projected is one of belittling the opposition. And that's what the NFL wants to eliminate. Fortunately, the NFL Players Association is in full support of this initiative, and president Gene Upshaw is included in the video.

"I think we have to be very, very careful not to let our game slip," Upshaw tells his rank and file. "And some of the incidents I saw last season and the previous season, we're beginning to start down that slippery slope. That's why we decided we had to take this position and try to bring it back to what the game is all about."

"Don't get the wrong idea, nobody is being sent to charm school," Allen tells the players. "Remember guys, the world is watching. This emphasis on penalty enforcement is about respect, respect for your opponents, respect for the fans, respect for the game."

Amen. If people want to see hooligan action, let them watch professional wrestling.

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