By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The National Football League implemented a rule change to prevent something that happened twice all last season.

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Titans veteran defensive end Brian Orakpo delivered a hit to the head of Saints quarterback Drew Brees in a Week 9 matchup with New Orleans, then argued the call with the referees, which earned him two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the same play. San Diego Chargers cornerback Jahleel Addae, meanwhile, committed two separate unsportsmanlike conduct penalties at two different points in a Week 8 game against the Baltimore Ravens, first for taunting and then for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Baltimore tight end Crockett Gilmore.

That is what warranted hours of meetings on instituting new ejection rules?

As Pro Football Talk pointed out last week, the two players who committed two unsportsmanlike penalties in the same game were not Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, who infamously got into several scrums with each other throughout the Giants – Panthers game in Week 15 that culminated with a blatant helmet-to-helmet hit by Beckham. Both players combined for six penalties (four by Beckham), five of which were for unnecessary roughness.


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The game has nonetheless been credited with inspiring the league to institute a one-year trial of ejections for players who commit two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the same game, even though Beckham and Norman, ironically, would not have been ejected under the new rules. The NFL rulebook states that most unsportsmanlike conduct violations are subject to ejection; officials have seemingly been reluctant to pull the trigger, most noticeably in cases involving star players like Beckham and Norman. The league is essentially trying to remove the burden of potentially ejecting star players from the referees, who would have been justified in ejecting Beckham for his three separate unnecessary roughness calls and egregious helmet hit.

But since the double-infraction in question only happened twice all last season, how necessary was this rule change and the time and effort put into making it? Players who commit a taunting penalty or yap at referees may not do it again for fear of being ejected, but apparently they have been watching their behavior anyway. Sportsmanship is always a good cause to promote, but unsportsmanlike conduct was not exactly an epidemic that needed to be contained.

The rule change may deter players from taunting each other, for fear of putting themselves in position for the other team to “bait” them into drawing that second foul and ejection. It may result in fewer obnoxiously choreographed, drawn-out celebrations by the likes of Cam Newton. But ultimately, this rule change was implemented to curb a “problem” that was not much of an issue in the first place. Ostensibly, the only issue at hand was making the referees look bad.

And the officials have a lot more to fix if that’s what they really want to prevent.

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Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.