The levying of two-game suspensions to Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib and Oakland Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree following an on-field fight sent a message to the rest of the NFL.
“I think a two-game suspension is designed to appropriately discipline a player, but also get their attention,” NFL vice president of communications Joe Lockhart said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. “I suspect this will get their attention.”
Talib and Crabtree, who have had confrontations in previous games, engaged just three minutes into Sunday's 21-14 Raiders victory. The league announced the suspension Monday evening, and both players are appealing the decisions.
Crabtree blocked Talib out of bounds following the whistle blowing a play dead. Talib stood up, grabbed Crabtree's helmet and threw it off. Several players from both teams rushed over and the fight spread quickly. After being separated, the two players engaged one another again and threw punches.
A two-game ban is stronger than many punishments issued for on-field misconduct. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green was fined but not suspended for punching Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey earlier this season.
“One of the reasons is the eye test, just watching,” Lockhart said of the incident between Talib and Crabtree. “First, this did appear to be premeditated; it happened three minutes into the game. There’s history there. It was prolonged, as you watched it play out from one side of the field to the other side of the field. And importantly, it put other people at risk, sideline personnel, league personnel.”
During the altercation, Talib also snatched Crabtree’s chain from his neck, which further incited the fight. As NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan wrote in his disciplinary decision to Talib: “… you deliberately ripped your opponent's chain from his neck just as you did last year when you played against him.”
During last year’s Week 17 matchup, after an incomplete pass intended for Crabtree, Talib engaged with Crabtree and then ripped off his chain. The players did not fight after last season’s game.
Lockhart said he did not know a timetable for the appeals, but suspected that there would be two separate hearings.