NFL on pace to obliterate recent ejections record

Browns center Cam Erving reacts after being ejected for fighting with Cowboys defensive tackle David Irving. AP Photo/Ron Schwane

Before you settled into your Barcalounger Sunday, two more NFL players had been ejected from games. And then, before the early games were complete, another player had been disqualified.

Add it all up, and NFL officials already have ejected more than twice the number of players as they did during all 17 weeks of the 2015 regular season. The total of 10 disqualifications puts them on pace to set at least a 15-year high and continues a two-pronged effort by the league to restrain what it considers to be unsportsmanlike player behavior.

As the chart shows, NFL ejections typically have remained in single digits for a full season. Historically, the short season relative to other sports has made the league reluctant to use the ejection as a deterrent. There have not been more than 13 in any season since at least 2001, which is as far back as the ESPN Stats & Information database goes.

In 2016, however, the NFL turned to a pair of initiatives --- mostly in response to an ugly game last season between the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants. It added a rule that calls for an automatic ejection of players who receive two of a certain type of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. And it also intensified efforts to make fighting and other non-football acts subject to immediate ejection if on-field officials believe it is warranted.

We saw one of each on Sunday afternoon.

First, referee Jeff Triplette's decision to eject Cleveland Browns center Cam Erving and Dallas Cowboys defensive end David Irving came as the result of a fight after a first-quarter play.

Second, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was ejected after a fourth-quarter call by referee Gene Steratore for arguing about a penalty call and then throwing a towel at an official. He received separate unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for each, triggering the auto-ejection rule.

Triplette has led the way among NFL officials, accounting for five of the 10 ejections. Referee Bill Vinovich has ejected two players, while John Hussey, Ed Hochuli and Steratore have done it once each.