The NFL has banned dunking on goal posts this season, and Jimmy Graham has already been very vocal in expressing his displeasure over the rule change. On Thursday night, the New Orleans Saints tight end decided to make a point by accepting two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after scoring touchdowns. Sean Payton was not pleased about it.
Graham caught five passes for 48 yards and two touchdowns in a preseason win over the Tennessee Titans. He dunked the ball on the goal posts both times he got into the end zone. Payton was asked if that made him “particularly upset.”
“Well, would that make sense? Would you be upset?” Payton said, via ESPN.com. “Yeah, I was. Particularly.”
After Graham’s second penalty, Payton ran over to him and was seen lacing into him. Both Graham and Calvin Johnson have said they still plan to dunk on the goal posts during the 2014 season, but we have to assume neither player will do it in the regular season.
Saints offensive lineman Zach Strief, who tried to calm Graham down during his argument with Payton, is operating under the same assumption.
“I understand Jimmy’s frustration with that rule change. I understand what he’s doing,” Strief said. “And yet it’s something, look, if this is a regular-season game, Jimmy’s not dunking over the goalpost. Coach Payton was completely, I think, correct to jump on him. Any of us, I think would expect it. I think Jimmy probably expected it.”
Had it not been for Graham bending the goal posts in a game against the Atlanta Falcons last season, the rule probably would not have gone into effect.
Personally, I think the NFL is hurting their product by being too strict with celebration penalties. I get why Graham is angry about it, but I also understand Payton’s perspective. The preseason is supposed to simulate the regular season. Intentional penalties might make it harder for the coaching staff to evaluate players on special teams, with the ball being kicked from the 20 yard line instead of the 35. That’s probably why Payton was angry.
GIF via GIFD Sports