Officials review tapes before making decision

Updated: November 14, 2004, 7:11 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

CLEVELAND -- Talking trash wasn't enough. The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers decided to trade punches.

Less than an hour before Sunday's game, Browns running back William Green and Steelers linebacker Joey Porter squared off and wildly swung at each other near midfield.

The altercation resulted in both being ejected before the opening kickoff and added another chapter to the NFL's nastiest rivalry, which had lost some of its snarl the past few years.

"We're getting it back," remarked Steelers chairman Dan Rooney.

As the teams were going through pregame drills, Porter and Green got into a heated verbal exchange in front of the Browns' bench. Seconds later, they were throwing overhand rights, uppercuts and roundhouse lefts before being separated.

"I've never been a boxing referee," Steelers running back Jerome Bettis said. "It was weird. It was just one of those unfortunate things. Emotions boiled over."

Porter landed one of his blows to Green's face, bloodying his lower lip.

Tensions between the teams were riding high following comments Browns defensive tackle Gerard Warren made in the days leading up to the game. Warren threatened to go after Pittsburgh rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's head.

The NFL warned Warren on Friday that any unnecessary roughness could result in a suspension.

Warren's remarks had players edgy as they took the field.

"You could see something coming," said Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward. "Joey came over there and they got into it. Their faces were real close and spit was flying. The next thing you know he [Green] tried to head-butt Joey. Then punches were thrown."

Ward was disappointed Porter, one of the league's most verbose players, got himself kicked out.

"Joey has got to be smarter than that," Ward said. "We've got more to lose than they got. I know Joey regrets what happened."

Browns fullback Terrelle Smith, whom Ward accused of inciting the fight, also threw a punch during the skirmish, but was not thrown out. Smith said he was trying to protect his teammate.

"Anything that happens to him, happens to me," Smith said. "You got to protect your own. There are always words exchanged, but maybe he [Porter] talked to the wrong people."

Roethlisberger wasn't sure what was happening when the fight broke out.

"I was 20 yards away. I picked up my helmet and went over," he said. "As a leader I want to help, but I didn't want to do anything stupid."

Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia maybe summed up the foolishness of the fight better than anyone.

"We can't afford to lose players before the game even starts," he said.