Falcons bench incident draws review
ASHBURN, Va. -- DeAngelo Hall says he was only trying to help a teammate. Mike Smith says he was trying to restore order. If that's the case, how did the Washington Redskins cornerback and the Atlanta Falcons coach end up in the middle of such an untidy scrum?
The NFL is trying to answer that very question as it investigates the altercation that happened in the second quarter of Atlanta's 31-17 victory over Washington at the Georgia Dome on Sunday. It's anyone's guess what fines or suspensions will result from the sequence of events that found former Falcons player Hall on the wrong sideline surrounded by a throng of wrong-color jerseys.
"That was a crazy deal," Redskins running back Rock Cartwright said. "There was a lot going on over there. I see their head coach got involved, which I think was not right. I see a lot of their players got involved. I'm sure DeAngelo will get a fine for it, and I hope those guys get fined, too. There was a lot more of their guys than there was our guys."
A review of the video doesn't help much. The commotion started when Redskins safety LaRon Landry was whistled for a late sideline hit on quarterback Matt Ryan. While Landry and Ryan were walking back on the field as if nothing major had happened, Hall -- he wasn't even involved in the play -- is quickly surrounded by Atlanta players, coach Smith and Falcons director of athletic performance Jeff Fish.
Hall said after the game that he went to the sideline to come to Landry's aid. He accused Fish of trying to "get some licks in." Of Smith, he said: "When a coach comes over there to put his hands on you in a harmful way, something needs to be done."
Hall said he would file a complaint with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but he doesn't have to bother. League spokesman Randall Liu said Monday that "any altercation of that nature is always reviewed for possible discipline."
The replays show plenty of physical contact involving Hall, Smith and Fish. Smith said after the game he was merely playing peacemaker. He maintained that stance Monday.
"I can tell you this. Our quarterback was hit late out of bounds on the sideline," Smith said. "We were trying to restore order on our sideline."
Hall was not made available to reporters Monday, a rare bit of silence from one of the team's most outspoken players. Hall spent last week criticizing the Falcons for the way they treated him before he was traded to Oakland after the 2007 season and was obviously fired up for Sunday's game.
In fact, another of Hall's infamous NFL moments occurred on the same sideline two years ago -- a shouting match with then-Atlanta coach Bobby Petrino that led to a $100,000 fine for the player. Hall was booed loudly during pregame introductions Sunday.
"That's D-Hall," Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said. "Everybody knows he's a fiery guy. He likes to talk smack. That's just part of his game."
A Redskins spokesman said Hall will likely speak once the NFL has decided whether to take further action. There were only two penalties called on the play -- one on Landry for the late hit, and one on Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who shoved a Falcons player after Hall's teammates finally arrived on the scene to help out.
Coach Jim Zorn said his own review of the game verified Hall's side of the story.
"I read what he said, and it looked to me on video it's exactly what happened," Zorn said. "We were penalized, and what he was trying to do was get LaRon off the sideline and LaRon was going and he got grabbed.
"I think there was emotion involved because their player just got hit out of bounds, the quarterback. That's a tough deal in itself. The emotion rose, and he was the only guy in there. I was really actually proud of DeAngelo for keeping his composure."
The incident is the latest in an incredible run of Redskins news that has made the team's actual on-field performance an afterthought in recent weeks. In the last month, owner Dan Snyder and team management have stripped Zorn of play-calling duties, announced that fans are banned from carrying signs into the stadium, given Zorn a vote of confidence, issued an apology of sorts for the team's play and had an assistant coach lash out at Hall of Fame running back John Riggins for claiming Snyder is someone whose "heart is dark."
Meanwhile, the Redskins (2-6) have lost four straight, the injuries are mounting, and the offense still hasn't scored 17 points in a game. There was a sea change in the locker room Monday as players spoke about how they'll stay motivated through the final eight weeks.
"It's your job. You've got to have pride," Cartwright said. "That's how you take care of your family."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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