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 overthecap.com, 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."