Few players in the NFL got to celebrate as much as J.J. Watt did last season, and that might be why the Houston Texans defensive lineman is upset that the league has mandated new rules about what sort of celebrations won't be tolerated any longer. According to several sources, referees are telling players that they can be penalized 15 yards for spinning the ball on the ground as a celebration, and the language in the official 2012 rulebook suggests that's not the end of what can be a 15-yard celebration penalty: A "military salute" penalty is also going to be enforced this season.
Fox's Mark Berman reports that Watt is "not happy with the NFL's decision to crack down on excessive celebrations because his military salute after sacks will be included" -- something Watt says he does as a sign of respect.
Berman gave a rundown of Watt's full statement on Twitter:
"I do my salute as a sign of respect and appreciation for the military and I think it's kind of a bad deal they're going to take away something that I'm trying to show respect to the people who protect this country and freedom to the game and who allow us to play this game. If it wasn't for the men and women overseas protecting us I wouldn't be able to play football. The NFL gives us gloves that say salute the service I can't even salute to the service because they don't let me. Something needs to be done about that. I think it's a bad deal. I don't have a plan yet. I'm prepared to pay some fines if I need to because I'm not going to stop respecting our military."
But Watt may be overreacting before hearing the full story behind the rule. It is only a violation if he directs his salute at the opponent, but Watt directs his salute at the fans. So in actuality, it might not be an issue for Watt at all.
That's good news, since Watt led the league with 20.5 sacks last season on his way to being named Defensive Player of the Year. If he does the same amount of celebrating this year and wants to give the salute, it won't be a problem as long as he keeps doing it in the right direction.