During the last two minutes of the first half of today’s Redskins – Falcons game, a scuffle broke out on the Atlanta Falcons‘ sideline. It started when the Falcons took exception to an out-of bounds hit LaRon Landry laid on Matt Ryan, the Falcons’ quarterback. At the time, what was happening in the trenches was not totally apparent. What was apparent was the fact DeAngelo Hall and other Redskins’ players came to the assistance of Landry, who was being grabbed and shoved by the Falcons’ players. That’s a normal response by teammates.
In a post-game locker room interview with Comcast Sports Network DeAngelo Hall explained that something uglier than a minor shoving match occured. He claimed that Atlanta’s head strength and conditioning coach – Jeff Fish – grabbed him in a manner that was intended to do him physical harm, and that Atlanta’s Head Coach Mike Smith directly threatened him and also grabbed him in a manner intended to inflict injury. One of the Fox TV Analysts, I believe Tony Siragusa, commented that Smith has a reputation for being willing to mix it up on behalf of players, would not hesitate to get involved, and would not back down. So, it’s certainly plausible that, in the heat of the moment, harsh words were exchanged and those involved did more than just hold players back to prevent a fight. More to the point, after reviewing a video of the incident I’m convinced Mike Smith struck Hall with his right elbow directly in front of a referee, yet only Redskins’ players were flagged.
If DeAngelo Hall follows through on his pledge to speak with the NFL Commissioner’s office tomorrow about the incident, the league should take his concerns seriously. There already is a perception that the league has a double standard when it comes to players and coaches. If Tom Cable of the Oakland Raiders was a player, he’d have likely been suspended by the league by now over the incident wherein one of his assistant coach’s jaw was broken. To properly sort today’s incident out, the Commissioner should interview all involved and treat everyone equally. To do otherwise would reinforce the double standard concern.
Let’s be clear – DeAngelo Hall did not blame the loss on the scuffle. He didn’t make any excuses whatsoever. He simply did what anyone with an ounce of courage and self respect would do – pledged to stand up to people he perceived to have acted like bullies and punks. Whether the league shares his perception or not is irrelevant at this point. His complaint should be investigated fully and resolved fairly & openly by the league to ensure player safety.