Thursday, November 12, 2009

Have You Actually Gone Back and Looked at that Sideline Scrum in the Falcons Game?

Easy target

So Sunday in game eight against the Falcons, Atlanta's fifth possession, second quarter, on third and three near midfield and the Redskins trailing 21-3, quarterback Matt Ryan scrambles four yards for the first down. Redskins safety LaRon Landry comes in from the defensive secondary, too late, and hits Matt out of bounds, penalty flag, fifteen yards personal foul late hit.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall follows his teammate to the sideline, arriving at nearly the same time as LaRon. The camera follows Matt Ryan the ground, he rolls and pops back up unhurt, as the camera follows Matt back toward the field of play, a Falcons staffer, presumably Director of Athletic Conditioning Jeff Fish, appears to shove LaRon out of the way, LaRon keeps going back to the field and is out of the action until the coming scrum is already at critical mass.

After shoving LaRon out of the way this Falcons staffer grabs DeAngelo by the jersey with both hands and begins shaking him. Within two seconds Falcons players and head coach Mike Smith are on top of DeAngelo, and coach Smith appears to grab DeAngelo with his right hand, up under DeAngelo's right shoulder, yelling at him.

The camera pans out then back in quickly, as DeAngelo backs or is pushed toward the field of play, coach Smith moves around in front of DeAngelo, still appears to have hold of DeAngelo with one hand, shaking. Here is where it gets interesting.

Cornerback Justin Tryon appears from camera left, clearly trying to extract DeAngelo, LaRon also reappears, but he is incidental to the action. As DeAngelo continues to try and disengage, and with the referee literally right there in the center of the scrum, the Falcons head coach gives DeAngelo and Justin a forearm across the facemask. At this point coach Smith is pulled off by Falcons players, at that point all the principal action is over, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth appears and moves the pile but that is not germane to the previous action. Penaties are assessed, Atlanta's drive continues, ending in a field goal to push the Falcons' lead to 24-3.

While reasonable people can disagree what actually happened in this scrum, and of course we have no idea what was said by any of the parties in those first seconds of the scrum, it would certainly appear to me that all relevant contact was initiated by the Falcons and that Mike Smith's assertion that he did not know who was in the pile, there were a bunch of people and he was just trying to break it up is bullshit. Coach Smith is clearly on top of DeAngelo and I seriously doubt he did not know that was the former player he helped usher out of town.

Go check the video yourself, it is here. Everything you need to see happens in the first 23 seconds. Twenty-three, ha.

Unfortunately for DeAngelo he does not get the benefit of the doubt in these situations, he once committed three penalties on the same drive in 2007, then blew up on the sideline at Falcons rookie head coach Bobby Petrino. He groused about his coach and team relations in Atlanta soured. Later he was fined by the league for inappropriate displays of support for Michael Vick, who had just been sentenced to prison.

After Bobby Petrino resigned suddenly to return to the college ranks, DeAngelo was traded amid rancor to the Oakland Raiders who promptly signed him to a seven year, seventy million dollar contract. DeAngelo never jelled with Oakland's scheme and after coach Lane Kiffin was fired, DeAngelo was cut only eight games into that giant contract.

Perhaps most relevant to this sideline scrum two weeks ago, is this bizarre story, that in what would turn out to be DeAngelo's last game with the Raiders, against his former team the Falcons, DeAngelo lingered in the tunnel at halftime of the game, harassing his former teammates and trying to pick a fight.

Fast forward to the week before the Redskins played the Falcons this season, DeAngelo swore up and down that he is misunderstood and that he is working to rehabilitate his image, then he still manages to find his way into an altercation with his old team.

Can't wait until the Redskins play at Oakland in game thirteen next month.

DeAngelo Hall with the Raiders in 2008, obviously before game nine: Getty Images from here.