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Amari Cooper shrugs off new NFL rule change

Updated May 26, 2017 - 10:02 pm

OAKLAND, Calif. — He points to the sky. Sometimes, he jumps into the air.

And that’s about it from Amari Cooper.

The third-year Raiders wide receiver isn’t much of a showman after scoring touchdowns. He doesn’t dance. He doesn’t spike the football. He is a race-car driver who, upon winning the Indy 500, skips the tire-screeching donuts and milk-drinking in favor of hugging his pit crew and driving home. Celebratory antics are of little interest to him.

So neither was a recent rule change.

The NFL announced a number of amendments Tuesday in Chicago, each of them affecting the Raiders to varying degrees. The one regarding touchdown celebrations could affect some; Cooper is a notable exception. Other changes figure to have a more sweeping effect across the roster and league in 2017.

It is easy to forget about Cooper’s youth.

The 2015 fourth overall pick won’t turn 23 until June 17. He is younger than four of the eight wide receivers who were drafted last month in the third round. His on-field maturity level is not reflected in his age.

Cooper can devastate a defense but keep a veteran’s composure. In November, he made a ruthless inside cut following a short reception, buckling the knees of Benardrick McKinney to send the Texans linebacker to the turf, en route to a 35-yard touchdown that gave the Raiders a 27-20 fourth-quarter lead. He followed the score with a toss of the football to a referee before jumping into the air beside teammates. Then, he jogged stoically to the sideline.

NFL players now are permitted to use the football as a prop, celebrate on the ground with such gestures as snow angels and perform group demonstrations that can be choreographed in advance.

If they’d like.

“That doesn’t impact anything for me,” Cooper said Tuesday, shaking his head with a smile.

Other changes have a more widespread effect.

The NFL adjusted its overtime, decreasing the period from 15 to 10 minutes. Teams also now can activate two players from injured reserve during a season instead of one. Among the other main revisions, there is no more required cutdown from a 90-man to 75-man roster following the third exhibition game. Instead, teams will be required to drop from 90 to 53 following the fourth and final exhibition, which will be played on Aug. 31.

A more condensed overtime should mean a greater likelihood of ties. In 2016, the Raiders played in one overtime game. It wasn’t resolved until wide receiver Seth Roberts broke two tackles on a 41-yard touchdown, crossing the goal line 13 minutes and 12 seconds deep into overtime. Such a late, tie-breaking score is no longer possible.

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said teams must adjust their strategy to account for a quicker overtime. It is unclear how that may manifest itself across 32 different NFL coaching staffs.

As for the decision to merge two roster cutdowns into one, Del Rio called it a “good move for our league.”

“That fourth game can be real difficult for those young men that have fought their way through,” Del Rio said. “At the end (of the preseason), you’re making decisions on who you’re going to keep for your practice squad, who you’re going to keep at the end of your roster for your 53. I think it’s a healthy transition. … Everybody is going to play on that Thursday (on a short week), and it comes so quick. You’re trying to move guys out earlier that week; it’s a little bit disruptive. So I’m glad to see the league make that move.”

Del Rio probably didn’t dance to celebrate the rule change.

Suffice it to say that if he had, Cooper wouldn’t have joined him.

More Raiders: Follow all of our Oakland Raiders-to-Las Vegas coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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