NFL suspends Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib for brawl

NFL suspends Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib for brawl

ALAMEDA – Aqib Talib was completely unprovoked in ripping a gold chain off Michael Crabtree nearly 11 months ago. There was no warning, no history, no beef.

Crabtree didn’t retaliate in that game, saying he made a “business decision.” An AFC West title on the line, and a playoff game. Crabtree knew the Raiders couldn’t afford to play without him in that game or the future.

That same thought didn’t prevail Sunday afternoon. Crabtree put on a chain before Sunday’s game between the Raiders and Broncos, the first time he and Talib would share a field since the original incident. He taped it to his body, according to ESPN.

That report suggests Crabtree knew trouble was brewing. He had plenty of time to consider another business decision. He didn’t make the same choice.

Crabtree seemed to punch cornerback Chris Harris Jr. in the gut to start the Raiders’ second drive. The Broncos cornerback took exception.

Crabtree was lined up with Talib on the next play. They locked horns, and then things got out of control. Talib ripped Crabtree’s chain again. This time, the veteran receiver didn’t hold back. He drove Talib into the ground, and a brawl broke out. Punches were thrown, helmets were ripped off and facemasks were grabbed.

Both guys were ejected on Sunday. That wasn’t enough for the NFL. The league suspended Crabtree and Talib two games without pay for the altercation.

Crabtree will appeal the suspension, a league source said.

Player and team will be punished serverely if he serves the full term.

The Raiders wouldn’t have their most reliable receiver next week against the New York Giants or in a Dec. 10 contest at AFC-West leading Kansas City. Both are must-win games as the Raiders attempt a late-season playoff push. His absence would be magnified if Amari Cooper can’t clear the concussion protocol and rebound from a ankle injury posthaste.

Crabtree will lose significant funds during a suspension without pay. He’ll forfeit $735,294 before taxes in base salary if he’s gone two games, $367,647 if he only misses one. Those totals don’t include per-game roster bonuses which, per, total $31,250 a game.

That’s a hefty sum to be sure.

Head coach Jack Del Rio said before punishment was levied that Crabtree didn’t deserve further punishment. He reiterated that stance on social media Monday night.

“Hard to understand the reasoning for this judgementbased on most recent ruling w/altercation,” Del Rio wrote on Twitter. “See WR Cin and DB Jak = 0 games suspended.”

Del Rio is referring to Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green and Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who were only fined after a Nov. 5 altercation where Green choked his foil and punches were thrown.

That will certainly be addressed in Crabtree’s appeal. So will the fact Crabtree already missed most of one game. A two-game suspension would essentially be three games out. There’s no precedent for that.

That NFL was bothered by this feud’s history, though it didn’t penalize, suspend or fine Talib for the original chain-ripping incident.

The league came down hard this time, as NFL VP of football operations Jon Runyan expressed in letters written to both players.

“Such actions have no place in this game,” he said, “engender ill will between teams, and lead to further confrontations.”

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Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders


Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had a hand in drafting Josh Johnson a decade ago. The agile quarterback and Oakland native was a Tampa Bay’s fifth-round pick in 2008, Gruden’s last year as Buccaneers coach.

The pair will reunite in Johnson’s hometown. The well-traveled quarterback signed with the Raiders on Monday, the team announced.

Johnson will compete with Connor Cook to backup starter Derek Carr, and brings a veteran’s influence to the position group. It likely spells the end of EJ Manuel’s short tenure in silver and black. The strong-armed former first-round pick, who started one game last season, remains a free agent after a year with the Raiders.

This move should make Marshawn Lynch happy. He and Johnson are extremely close and together run the Family First Foundation, a charitable organization that does significant work for East Bay kids. Johnson and Lynch also played football together at Oakland Tech High.

Johnson has played 10 NFL teams prior to this Raiders stop, but hasn’t played in a regular-season game for some time.

Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'


Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden needed specific tools to run his running game. He wanted blocking tight ends and a bruising fullback, relics of a bygone offensive era.

“If Marshawn Lynch is the feature back, I think it’d be nice if we serviced him with a fullback,” Gruden said at the combine. … You need a blocking tight end if you’re going to slam the ball with a beast. So, those are two things that I’m looking for.”

Gruden said he wanted to import some old-school elements to help run with brute force.

Enter free-agent fullback Kyle Smith and tight end Derek Carrier. Welcome back, Lee Smith.

Then, on Sunday, Raiders made another vital move in this old school effort. They cut Marshawn Lynch a $1 million check.

The Oakland native’s roster bonus came due and the Raiders had no problem paying it, the clearest sign Lynch will be the Raiders feature back in 2018.

He’ll have a great chance to thrive in that role. The Raiders have a hulking, expensive offensive line (that still needs a right tackle). They have new ancillary blocking elements, and the centerpiece remains in place.

That last part was expected in recent weeks. The coaching staff, offensive line coach Tom Cable especially, wanted Lynch back. NFL Network confirmed those facts, stating Lynch will be around in 2018.

That was the case, even with Doug Martin’s addition. The former Tampa Bay back is expected to be a backup bruiser, someone who might put DeAndre Washington or (less likely) Jalen Richard’s job in jeopardy.

The Raiders can cut Lynch without a cap hit. Lynch is scheduled to make $6 million in salary and bonuses, with another $2 million available in incentives. The Raiders should hope to pay those; it would mean Lynch is running well.

The Raiders have given him a great opportunity to do so. They have solid blocking and a coach in Cable who helped him succeed during dominant days in Seattle.

Lynch proved he’s still got it in 2017’s second half, with 70 percent of his 891 rushing yards in the final eight games. He struggled early on, and upset some fans by helping the opposition during a scuffle with Kansas City. That mitigated a PR bump the Raiders looked for when signing a popular Oakland native just months after committing to Las Vegas long-term.

Jack Del Rio and staff grew tired of what they perceived as leeway given to Lynch unavailable to others, and probably wouldn’t have kept him on if still gainfully employed.

Gruden seems committed to Lynch this season, though nothing is ever 100 percent with an enigmatic rusher who doesn’t make private thoughts public.

His elusive, rough-and-tumble rushing style fits well with what Gruden wants, though he demands commitment to the team and sport. Sports Illustrated relayed a story of Gruden saying he needed a “full-time Lynch.”

If he gets that, the Raiders run game should thrive.