Carroll: Taunting enforcement ‘a can of worms’

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says he respects what the NFL is trying to accomplish by more strictly enforcing the taunting rule, but he believes the league has “opened up a bit of a can of worms” by penalizing actions that can be difficult for players to suddenly avoid amid the emotions of a game.

“You’ve got a lot of guys that have to deal with those explosive moments and they’ve got to really turn their focus away from the opponent,” Carroll said Monday. “It’s a good thought. It’s just hard to manage it.”

The taunting rule isn’t new, but the NFL has made its enforcement a point of emphasis for officials in 2021. The 11 taunting penalties called through the first two weeks already equals the total from the entire 2020 regular season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. There were nine in 2019.

The Seahawks have been flagged for taunting twice in two games: receiver DK Metcalf in the opener and cornerback D.J. Reed on Sunday.


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Carroll’s comments were in response to the one on Reed, which came in the fourth quarter of Seattle’s overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans. After successfully defending a deep ball that fell incomplete, Reed pumped his arms while looking at receiver A.J. Brown — a routine celebration that would have gone unpenalized in recent seasons.

Carroll’s issue was with the rule itself, not the official’s decision to flag Reed on that play. Strong safety Jamal Adams shared a similar sentiment postgame while calling the penalty “ticky-tack.”

“Come on, man,” Adams said. “You’re taking the passion and the emotions out of the game of football. At the end of the day, that’s the rule. We have to play smarter.”

Carroll cited another moment from Sunday’s game as an example of how to avoid being penalized for taunting. He said an unidentified player “made a very aggressive movement” after one play but had his body slightly turned away from the opponent, so it didn’t appear as though he was directing his celebration at anyone.

“What we’re talking about is always celebrate with your teammates and we’ve been practicing it and making a big deal about it because it is one of the main new things that they’ve emphasized, and as always, that’s what they call,” he said. “So I don’t think it’s bad for the game. I just think it’s hard for the guys to do in the moment. They’ve just got to learn and train and we’ve got to do a better job. I have to do a better job of putting us in situations and making sure we’re monitoring it really carefully and helping our guys train.”

Reed’s penalty was one of five 15-yard infractions by the Seahawks against Tennessee. In all, they committed 10 penalties for 100 yards.

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