The Chicago Bears have wound up on the wrong end of a lot of taunting flags this season, and Akiem Hicks has had enough of it.
After the Bears essentially clinched a win Sunday by stopping the Seattle Seahawks on fourth down late in the fourth quarter, Chicago linebacker Bruce Irvin was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Irvin was flagged for apparently saying something in the direction of the Seattle sideline. The flag didn’t cost the Bears, as it happened after the fourth down play was over.
That didn’t stop the criticism of what some saw as another overzealous taunting call. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who missed Sunday’s game while on the COVID/Reserve list, sent a funny reaction on social media to the flag.
A number of players have had difficulty adapting to the NFL’s new normal in terms of taunting flags. The Bears were on the wrong end of arguably the biggest controversy earlier in the season. Hicks may have a point here, but he and everyone else will just have to get used to it.
Photo: Aug 20, 2020; Lake Forest, Ilinois, USA; Chicago Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (96) arrives on the field for the training camp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Teams across the NFL are trying to adjust to the new normal that involves much stricter standards for taunting penalties. That includes the Kansas City Chiefs, who are getting an earful about it from offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
Bieniemy has been consistently confronting Chiefs players about taunting flags. His message is that like it or not, things that did not used to be an issue are now being enforced. He even offered a solution to players: simply hand the football back to the officials after making a play.
“The thing that we stress to our guys (is that) this is a point of emphasis, so regardless of what you might seem to think that it’s harmless, that’s not the case anymore,” Bieniemy said, via Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star. “We need to go back to the days of just handing the ball to the ref — get in the end zone, celebrate with your guys, and then we go on from there.”
Bieniemy has been so fixated on taunting calls that when running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was flagged for pointing at a linebacker while crossing the goal line against Dallas, other Chiefs players intercepted the running back to send the message before Bieniemy even could.
You could certainly argue that it’s silly that taunting has to be this much of a focus. Bieniemy is simply doing what every team should, though. Teams have lost games because of nitpicky taunting flags this season. Whether you like the rule or not, Bieniemy absolutely does not want his team to find itself in that sort of situation.
The NFL has maintained that it will not back down from its emphasis on penalizing taunting this season, and yet another player was flagged on Sunday for calling the league’s bluff.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who returned after missing several games with a knee injury, was called for taunting when he scored a touchdown in the first half of his team’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. The flag was thrown after he pointed at a defender.
Here’s another angle of the play:
While the taunting penalties have gotten ridiculous, players and teams should know better at this point. We’ve seen players flagged for a lot less than what Edwards-Helaire did. The rule isn’t changing this season, even if one of the people who helped implement it believes it has gone too far.
The NFL’s emphasis on enforcing taunting rules this year has been wildly unpopular, and even one of the people who helped implement the new policy believes it has gone too far.
Sean Payton, who is a member of the NFL’s competition committee, discussed the taunting rule during a Thursday appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show.” He said he believes it has been “over-officiated” to a level that no one wanted.
That is significant considering Payton was part of the committee that put the emphasis into effect. We have seen other members of the competition committee defend the taunting emphasis. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin recently said he agrees with all the flags that have been thrown. Though, those comments came after his team benefitted from a huge taunting call.
A lot of the taunting penalties that have been called this year seem absurd. You have to give Payton credit for recognizing that even though he is partially responsible for the change.
Photo: Aug 23, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton looks on during the second half against Jacksonville Jaguars at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
The NFL is not backing down over the controversial taunting penalty handed to Chicago Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh on Monday. In fact, they’re doing the exact opposite.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, the league has fined Marsh $5,972 for unsportsmanlike conduct in Monday’s loss to the Steelers. Marsh intends to appeal the fine.
It’s quite the statement considering how unpopular the call was at the time. The Bears were fuming after Marsh was flagged for taunting for essentially staring down the Pittsburgh sideline without even saying anything. The league had already made clear that, in its view, that was the dictionary definition of taunting.
The league has made clear that taunting will be a point of emphasis for referees this season, and that has certainly been the case. However, a lot of fans dislike it, and one coach has even been critical of it. If nothing else, this punishment is clear evidence that the NFL will not be backing down on that emphasis, like it or not.
Some NFL coaches had a direct hand in the league’s decision to call more taunting penalties this year, but we can say for certain that Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians was not one of them.
Arians has been fairly vocal in expressing his opposition to the NFL’s taunting emphasis. He reiterated that stance on Friday and joked that players may soon have to tape their mouths shut.
Arians mentioned how players aren’t even allowed to “look to the other bench.” That was a reference to the controversial taunting penalty that was called in Monday night’s game between the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers. Cassius Marsh was flagged after he stared down Pittsburgh’s sideline following a big play on third down. Marsh’s Bears teammates thought the penalty was “BS” and voiced complaints about it.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who is on the NFL’s Competition Committee, said this week that he is in favor of the strict taunting rules.
Most people agree with Arians. Some of the taunting penalties we have seen called this year seem totally unnecessary. Unfortunately, the NFL has no plans to loosen up.
The NFL reportedly has addressed the taunting penalty that was called on Cassius Marsh towards the end of his Chicago Bears’ 29-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.
Marsh was called for taunting his former team after a big sack on third down late in the close game. He also made contact with referee Tony Corrente as he was clearing off the field. Marsh’s Bears teammates thought the penalty was “BS” and voiced complaints about it.
There were additional complaints from fans and observers that referee Corrente may have leaned in to make contact with Marsh. Corrente justified his penalty call after the game.
Washington Post reporter Mark Maske quoted an NFL source who weighed in on the matter. The NFL source said the league fully backed the penalty call and that Marsh’s actions were the definition of taunting.
Marsh’s actions indeed fit the league’s definition of taunting. The issue many fans have is the NFL’s desire to enforce taunting rules as strictly as they have. Many people feel that taunting is a byproduct of a physical, spirited game, and that it sometimes enhances the product.
The NFL made clear it would be cracking down on taunting this season. The league has stuck to that promise.
The Chicago Bears were on the receiving end of one of the most questionable penalty calls of the season, and they made sure to let everybody know about it afterwards.
With his team trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers late in the fourth quarter on Monday, Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh came up with a huge sack on third down to halt the Steelers’ drive. However, referee Tony Corrente flagged Marsh for a taunting penalty after Marsh stared down the Pittsburgh sideline without saying a word.
The optics were also especially bad for Corrente because he appeared to initiate contact with Marsh as he was calling Marsh for the penalty.
To be clear, Marsh did do a jump-kick celebration after recording the sack. But the flag did not come in until well after the celebration. Instead, it was thrown immediately following Marsh’s staredown of the opposing sideline.
The 15-yard taunting penalty resulted in a fresh set of downs for the Steelers and put them in field goal range. The Bears then had to burn two timeouts to stop the clock before Chris Boswell hit a 52-yard kick. Chicago did score a touchdown on their next drive to take a slim 27-26 lead. But after Pittsburgh answered back with another field goal of their own to go up 29-27, the Bears had just 30 seconds left to go 75 yards. Bears kicker Cairo Santos missed a 65-yard field goal attempt that fell well short as time expired.
After the game, Bears linebacker Roquan Smith criticized the taunting call.
“I thought it was a BS call,” Smith said, per Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic.
Smith summed up how most people felt about the penalty. Taunting calls in the NFL are out of control this season, and Monday’s penalty against Marsh and the Bears looked especially bad, on top of maybe costing them the game.
The NFL’s new emphasis on taunting doesn’t just apply during games. It turns out there is retroactive punishment being handed down, too.
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack said Thursday that he had received a $20,000 fine for too much trash talk during Week 1 against the Houston Texans. Jack’s response? He doesn’t plan to say anything to anyone for the rest of the year.
The NFL has made no secret of the fact that it wants to crack down on taunting in 2021. So far the league has backed that up, much to the frustration of players. The penalties are unpopular with many fans as well, and fining players after the fact isn’t likely to change that.
You can see an example of what’s getting flagged now by clicking here. Most would agree that penalizing this is over the top, but the league simply won’t be moved.
CJ Gardner-Johnson is known for his talking during games. So it’s no surprise to hear that he is not a fan of the NFL’s new anti-taunting emphasis.
Gardner-Johnson on Tuesday discussed the NFL’s taunting focus. He says it is “bulls—.”
“To be real, the rule is bulls—,” Gardner-Johnson said Tuesday via The Athletic’s Katherine Terrell (censored by LBS for profanity). “Excuse my language, but you can’t stop the emotional players from being who we are. Not me, who WE are. A lot of players wear their emotions on their sleeves. … It is what it is.”
Taunting has already been forbidden in the NFL; players were subject to a 15-yard penalty for taunting. The difference is enforcing the rule will be a point of emphasis this season. There has even been talk of possible suspensions for taunting.
Gardner-Johnson is entering his third NFL season, all with the New Orleans Saints. He has been known more for instigating than taunting, so he might have a loophole that allows him to keep trash-talking.