Bengals corner Adam “Pac-Man” Jones forcibly removed the helmet of Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Jones then grabbed the sides of Cooper’s head, and slammed it against the helmet, yelling something that Cooper chose not to share, that is, if he heard it at all. Cooper said he didn’t.
The NFL, just a few months after saying there would be an emphasis placed on quelling fights and imposing penalties on players involved, are now officially choosing to hit Jones with only a fine.
Not a suspension as was originally thought on Sunday, the incident coming after the play was dead and the blow being a direct hit to Cooper’s head, while the league continues to struggle with concussion related problems.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio didn’t have a clear view of the incident during the game, and declined to delve further into it. Now that he’s seen the film, he said:
“It was clearly way over the line. I understand now why our offensive linemen went down there and took issue with it. I respect that. I really don’t understand how that was missed.”
Del Rio and the Raiders will be keeping the play on file, though somehow, the highlight never hit the national newswire Sunday or Monday, a shocker considering the incessant thirst for football news in a world with several 24-hour sporting news services.
Perhaps there’s a point to any thought that it’s because Cooper is a Raiders player, the team received the shortest play of any from ESPN’s SportsCenter wrap Sunday evening and received no television coverage from the outlet Monday.
Del Rio, still, was shocked that the officials, two of them standing directly over Jones and Cooper when everything happened, missed it.
Said Del Rio:
“There seemed to be enough eyes on the situation. It was right there at the end of the play and clearly a part of the end of the play. Coop just did a great job blocking. I think the guy got frustrated because Coop did a great job blocking downfield.”
The NFL issued a justification to ESPN’s Ed Werder, that because there was offsetting penalties — the Bengals were flagged on the play for unnecessary roughness, as were the Raiders after rushing to Cooper’s aide — there would be no suspension.
The NFL, according to the reasoning disseminated by Werder, failed to take into account that the penalties were issued after the brief skirmish that followed. Not as a result of Jones’ direct actions.
The reasoning also included the fact that Jones didn’t swing a helmet, and therefore use it as a weapon, even though it became a weapon as soon as Jones slammed Cooper’s head into it.
After the game, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said his team can improve their chippy ways, and that he knows who is going to be more physical after the whistle than others.
Jones claimed that he’s only trying to play football, and that there is no altercation that wasn’t initiated by another:
“Whatever you saw happen, that’s what happened. I’m here to play football. I don’t back down from anybody and I’m not out here trying to start anything. I’m just out here playing football.”
Pacman Jones welcomes Amari Cooper to the NFL with a nice head thump. pic.twitter.com/vkkpTYnNOU
— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) September 13, 2015
When Jones took off Cooper’s helmet, the play wasn’t even happening in their vicinity.
Former NFL coach and current football analyst Herm Edwards issued a few thoughts on radio show Mike and Mike:
“The referees, this was their opening day as well. There was a couple of calls (Sunday) where you scratch your head and think ‘didn’t they see that?'”
All the officials, though, or at least the majority, were standing right over Jones and Cooper.
Cooper finished the game with five catches on nine targets and 47 yards in Oakland’s 33-13 loss to Cincinnati, his NFL debut.
Safety Nate Allen has a torn MCL, the ligament that keeps one’s knee from bending inward. The initial timetable is four to eight weeks, and depends heavily on the amount of swelling and how long it persists.
Safety Charles Woodson suffered a dislocated shoulder and might play Sunday against the Ravens. Most would take it slow. But we’re discussing arguably the best defensive back in league history. And slow is not Woodson’s thing.
Quarterback Derek Carr tweaked his thumb a good bit, and can grip a football. Some ibuprofen and rest might be all he’ll need to play Sunday. But his status will likely remain questionable through the week.
Defensive lineman Justin Ellis should be alright. Del Rio kept the discussion short Monday, but alluded to the possibility of him practicing this week, in the coaches own quiet way.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.