Most every NFL player knows that a quick way to get ushered to the sidelines – or beyond – is participating in a fight.
Yet in three games Sunday, punches were thrown. No, not the variety that Deontay Wilder used to score a first-round knockout the previous night. Enough flying fists and other misdeeds, however, to lead to five ejections.
NFL fights pretty much make no sense. Armored up, players aren’t particularly vulnerable to punches. Indeed, the usual damage that comes from such bouts are bruised or broken hands and fingers from slugging helmets or shoulder pads.
That said, nearly all of the men involved in the near-brawls reasoned that the fighting was a necessary evil. At least on this day.
Which led to short days for such standouts as Bengals receiver A.J. Green and Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey in Jacksonville; Cardinals first-round pick LB Haason Reddick and veteran DL Frostee Rucker and 49ers running back Carlos Hyde in San Francisco.
No one was thrown out in New Orleans, where Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans laid out Saints rookie CB Marshon Lattimore from behind in a skirmish.
That doesn’t mean further discipline from the NFL isn’t possible. Everyone involved certainly will be fined, and suspensions could be in the offing for anyone who threw a punch.
Starting with Green.
With the Bengals trying to run out the clock late in the first half, Green jogged through his route. Ramsey, bona fide trash talker, knocked him down. Up jumped Green, grabbing Ramsey around the neck, then slamming him to the ground before punching away at Ramsey’s helmet.
”As a player, as a man, and a father, that’s a reflection of me,” Green said. ”I should have walked off in that whole situation. I definitely learned from this experience. It’s never going to happen again. I regret my actions. Whatever the punishment, I accept it. I put myself in that situation.”
Ramsey didn’t stick around to talk.
”That’s not football,” Green said of how Ramsey handled himself. ”I’m not going to tolerate disrespect like that. I know we can’t fight on the field. He got under my skin and I can’t let that happen. I’ve been the ultimate pro this long and I can’t let little things like that get to me. I shouldn’t have reacted that way, and I apologized to my teammates. That’s not who I am. It just got the best of me today.”
Ditto for Reddick, Rucker and Hyde.
With 3:36 remaining in Arizona’s 20-10 victory, Niners QB C.J. Beathard scrambled for 10 yards and slid. Arizona safety Antoine Bethea hit him anyway and was penalized for unnecessary roughness.
Niners guard Laken Tomlinson immediately coming to his quarterback’s defense by shoving Bethea, then the scuffle broke out.
Bethea claimed he was simply playing football. San Francisco’s players vehemently – and physically – disagreed.
”I didn’t see Carlos throw a punch, I don’t know exactly what he did,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. ”I did see him get punched, punches thrown at him. I did see him get knocked over a couple of times. I really loved how he went to our quarterback’s, went and got out quarterback’s back. And I thought our quarterback had a couple of helmets to the head when he was in the pocket a few plays before, and then he ended up scrambling and sliding and got one again. I think our players had had enough.”
Evans clearly had enough when he believed Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston was being threatened, even though Winston no longer was playing because of a sore shoulder.
The scuffle began in the third quarter when Winston vigorously pressed his finger into the back of Lattimore’s helmet during a dead ball.
”I told him to go to his sideline,” Winston said.
Lattimore shoved Winston, and Evans raced over and took Lattimore to the ground from behind.
Evans was penalized for a personal foul.
”I just let my emotions get the best of me,” he said. ”I saw (Lattimore) pick a fight with my quarterback. I shouldn’t have hit him in his back like that. That was kind of malicious.”
Fights usually are. They also usually are senseless in football, with only ejections, injuries and suspensions emanating from them.
It will bear watching not only how the coaches of the six teams involved handle these actions, but what the league’s disciplinary folks do.
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