TAMPA, Fla. – Kwon Alexander’s return to Raymond James Stadium ended with him being presented a game ball after the 49ers’ 31-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But how it arrived at that point was nowhere near how Alexander would have scripted it after playing his first four NFL seasons for the Buccaneers.
Alexander was disqualified from the game near the end of the first quarter after he was ruled to have made a high hit on Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston as he was sliding at the end of a five-yard scramble. He watched from the locker room as the 49ers' defense rose to the occasion with Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon returning second-half interceptions for touchdowns.
“They just didn’t let up,” Alexander said. “They kept going, they finished. Everybody’s finishing. Everybody’s still running to the ball and having fun. We got the dub (W), and now we got to move on to the next one.
“Our guys did their jobs. They prepared and studied, and we got turnovers.”
Alexander spoke to the media in the center of the 49ers' locker room while spinning the game ball in his hands. Coach Kyle Shanahan presented Alexander with the ball, but Alexander said it really does not belong to him.
“I really give it to my teammates,” Alexander said. “They worked for it. They played hard today.
“They had my back. They told me they were going to have my back. And they went and did their job. They did what they said.”
As Alexander was forced to leave the playing field, he received a lot of back slaps and encouragement from his 49ers teammates – many of whom promised Alexander they would win the game.
Alexander had three tackles in his limited time in his 49ers debut. He dropped an interception, but had a big hit on Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones.
On the play he was ejected, Alexander said he was in a “tough situation” of pursuing Winston after a pump-fake and trying not to give up on the play, in case Winston decided to keep running. He was assessed a 15-yard penalty for a personal foul, and referee Alex Kemp announced Alexander's ejection after consulting with the league office in New York.
“I was surprised because when I hit him I thought he was still up,” Alexander said. “He pumped-faked the ball first. I would never do that. I’m not a dirty player like that. I play the game right, so it was never intentional. But it happened, and now I got to move on from this.
“I was playing hard, playing fast. He pumped-faked the ball, so I just tried to make a play. That’s how it goes.”