Updated: March 26, 2014, 10:02 AM ET
Jeff Legwold | ESPN.com
ORLANDO, Fla. — St. Louis Rams coach and NFL competition committee co-chairman Jeff Fisher said Wednesday morning it was a significant in-game delay caused by one of New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham’s dunks that was at the root of the decision to add the goalpost celebration to the list of post-touchdown actions that will draw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.
In short, the goalpost now is formally considered a prop and can’t be used to celebrate a touchdown.
“The background is when the committee basically defined unsportsmanlike conduct and celebrations it grandfathered in the Lambeau Leap, provided only one person jumped into the stands,” Fisher said. “And also [the committee] made an emphasis, made it illegal, to celebrate using anything as a prop, whether it was a pen or it was a ball or what have you. But then again allowed the players to in essence use the goalpost as a prop, to dunk, to shoot, whatever.
“And then last year we had an incident in one of the games where there was a dunk and the goalpost was tilted and the game was shut down for about 25 minutes until they could get the goalpost corrected. That’s unnecessary, and so we just felt that we would include the goalpost in that category as props.”
Fisher didn’t specifically name Graham as the inspiration for the decision to add the dunk to the list of celebration no-nos, but when asked if it was the tight end he said: “It was a player that’s done it before that’s real tall, catches a lot of touchdown passes and is pretty good.”
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino revealed the change in how the goalpost dunk will be officiated Tuesday during a radio interview with “The Dan Patrick Show.”
Graham, a former basketball player at the University of Miami, has tilted the crossbar twice during his career with a post-touchdown celebration. In the Saints’ game in Atlanta this past season, the game was delayed as stadium workers reset the crossbar.
“And the same play he dunked and the goalpost shifted and then he used it as a punching bag,” Fisher said. “Now we’re not going to penalize back to back but the first one, the dunk, now is going to be a penalty. We just can’t afford — can you imagine if someone had a hamstring issue after a 20-minute delay in the game because we allowed a player to dunk.”
Graham responded to the news of the new rule change on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon:
I guess I’ll have to lead the @nfl in penalties next year! #funpolice pic.twitter.com/ruX1TBarzC
– Jimmy Graham (@TheJimmyGraham) March 25, 2014
Covered Broncos for nine years for Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News
Previously covered Steelers, Bills and Titans
Member of Pro Football Hall of Fame Boardof Selectors since 1999