NFL’s First Taunting Penalty of the Season Was Just as Bad as We All Could’ve Predicted

by John Jamison

Well, the “No Fun League” is officially back. Thursday night saw the debut of the NFL 2021 regular season. And great a game as the matchup between defending champ Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys was, it left fans with some concerns moving forward. Remember a few weeks ago when we reported how angry fans were about the league’s decision to “strictly enforce” its taunting rules? Yup. That’s only going to get worse based on one of the calls from last night.

In fairness, it’s Week 1. The refs are still working everything out. But this call was an offense to NFL fans everywhere.

Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen and Cowboys defensive lineman Carlos Watkins were going at it during a play toward the beginning of the second quarter, as big boys do. Jensen finished his block pretty aggressively as the play wound down. He gave Watkins a big shove, probably unnecessary considering how far away the action was. Watkins lashed out, swiping at Jensen’s facemask with a half punch/half slap type of move. Now, thrown punches are an ejectable offense in the NFL. We’ll leave this one up to the reader’s discretion. Watch the video here and determine for yourself whether or not Watkins swung at Jensen.

Whatever the case, most of us can agree that the swipe was deserving of the unnecessary roughness penalty they called on Watkins, at the very least. But what’s this? Ryan Jensen talked some smack in response to the jab? How dare he.

The first taunting penalty of the season was called on someone yelling at a player who had just hit him in the face. The result? Oh, the penalties offset because “taunting” totally cancels out a borderline punch to the face. NFL fans don’t like that one bit.

The Refs Were Working Out Some Other Things During the NFL Regular Season Debut

Let’s go ahead and say Thursday night was not a flawlessly officiated NFL game. Kansas City Chiefs fans would probably call it a marked improvement from what they saw as bogus officiating during last year’s Super Bowl. But the refs were still working out the kinks last night.

Once again, we return to the taunting call. This time, it has nothing to do with the decision and has everything to do with its execution. One of the officials left his mic channel open as he explained what happened between Jensen and Watkins. Fortunately, he caught himself before revealing any of the dirty details. But he gave fans just enough to wonder… what did Jensen and/or Watkins say?

“Well, let’s just say…” second-year umpire Terry Killens announced for all to hear. He quickly realized what was happening and cut the mic off. Maybe Jensen deserved the punch and taunting call, after all. We’ll never know. What we do know is the NFL is going to have a lot of angry fans on its hands if taunting calls follow this example throughout the season.