NFL Got it Right with Crabtree, Talib
(973espn.com) — Jon Runyan was once a 6-foot-7, 320-pound wrecking ball of a right tackle, known as one of the nastiest players in the game.
Post-football the University of Michigan product has made New Jersey home after a long, successful stint with the Philadelphia Eagles and even went to Congress as the Garden State's representative from the third district before the toxicity of the nation's capital drove him from politics.
These days Runyan passes his time with the occasional Uber drive and oh yeah, as the NFL's Vice President of the Policy and Rules administration.
On Monday Runyon came down on Oakland's Michael Crabtree and Denver's Aqib Talib like he's was pulling from his tackle position and getting ready to flatten a helpless defensive back in the open field. The league suspended the petulant duo for two games after their long-simmering personal feud exploded again this past Sunday with a second chain-snatching incident by Talib that would have fit better in the local police blotter than the sports page.
Crabtree wasn't exactly the incident victim of a petty thief, however, as he actually started things down the wrong path by taking an unwarranted swing to the midsection of Talib's running mate in the "No Fly Zone," Chris Harris.
The result was Park Avenue establishing a new precedent to hopefully deter this kind of behavior in the future.
Generally, when players get ejected in-game for abhorrent behavior, as both Crabtree and Talib were, that's treated as a significant punishment and the league moves on. Here, the NFL not only added one game but made it two, pending an appeal of course, as both sides try to paint the other as the instigator in an effort to cut the punishment in half.
Part of Runyan's duties is informing players of their penalties and the former Pro Bowl selection didn't pull any punches, unlike Crabtree, citing the Oakland receiver's attack on Harris as a key component to "reignite" things before chiding Talib for ripping the chain off Crabtree's neck "aggressively."
"Such actions have no place in this game, engender ill will between teams and lead to further confrontations," Runyon surmised correctly.
From a technical standpoint Talib, Crabtree and Oakland guard Gabe Jackson were ejected with 11:47 remaining in the first quarter Sunday, the former two for the dust-up and Jackson for making contact with an official in the melee that followed.
Vance Joseph, whose rookie year as the Broncos' coach is quickly getting away from him, was obviously unhappy with the development
"It's unacceptable. We can't do it," the coach said. "We can't lose our best corner in a game like that. It obviously hurt us down the stretch. I told our guys, if we can defuse those things, we have to defuse them. We can't fall into the trap of getting into a fight that ends up losing one of our best players. We can't do it."
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio planned to talk to Crabtree on Tuesday but took to Twitter to express his displeasure with the new normal:
Both players are pointing in opposite directions of course.
"I came out there to play football on Sunday. I don't really know what he came out there to do," Talib said Monday. "It's unfortunate. I wish it didn't happen, but it happened, so just have to move on."
Crabtree, meanwhile, offered up the information that he taped his chain to his body because of the previous incident, according to ESPN.
From the outside, looking in, it certainly played out as Crabtree looking to get even and Talib reacting to that foolishly so it's tough to make a case for either.
"I didn't defend Chris [Harris]. [Crabtree] punched Chris," Talib said. "Next play he came and punched me. So he was on his whatever he was on."
Crabtree didn't speak Monday but his teammate Cordarrelle Patterson admitted that this was simmering long before kickoff.
"We all knew it was going to happen," Patterson said. "It was just a matter of time, when. Everybody was ready, prepared for it.
What they weren't prepared for was the consequences.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for Extra Points Media and 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen