ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The NFL will place a heavy emphasis on enforcing its player conduct rules, something Rams coach Jeff Fisher calls "a front-of-the-book issue."
As the league's spring meetings wrapped up Wednesday with Commissioner Roger Goodell saying expansion of the playoffs next season is possible, sportsmanship — and lack thereof — was the prime topic.
"We're going to clean the game up on the field," said Fisher, co-chairman of the influential competition committee. "The in-your-face taunting, those types of things, the language. It's all in the (rule) book. It's all under unsportsmanlike conduct. There's no change in our rule. We're going to enforce the current rule."
That includes abusive and racist language.
"It includes everything, yes," Fisher said with emphasis.
He noted that everyone is fed up when a lack of sportsmanship occurs: owners, coaches, fans, players.
"The NCAA is hoping for us to do something about it and we've got to take the lead," Fisher said, "and we're going to do that."
The Miami Dolphins were plagued by a bullying scandal last season after tackle Jonathan Martin left the team. NFL investigators found that guard Richie Incognito and two teammates engaged in persistent harassment directed at Martin, another offensive lineman and an assistant trainer. Incognito was suspended for the final eight games of the season and no longer is with the Dolphins.
Taunting penalties also were up last year, Fisher said, from "nine to 12 or 13."
"In the past, taunting, sportsmanship was in the back of the book under points of emphasis," he said. "It is now in the front of the book. It falls in our book right after all the statistical things which were good about our game last year. It is now a front-of-the-book issue. And what we want to do is we want to be able to put it back in the back of the book."
While the owners voted or tabled a dozen rules or bylaw changes, expanding the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams — one in each conference — was discussed. Goodell is optimistic that's coming, and he will discuss it with the players union April 8. A vote could come as early as the owners' May meeting in Atlanta.
Could two extra wild-card games be implemented for 2014?
"It's not out of the question," Goodell said. "We have more work. I wouldn't rule it out, but I wouldn't say that's the direction we're heading.
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