ALAMEDA –A brawl broke out early in Sunday's game with the Raiders at Oakland Coliseum, and the Denver Broncos say Michael Crabtree started it.
They point to a punch to Chris Harris Jr.'s gut on the first play of Oakland's second series. Things escalated on the next play, with Crabtree and nemesis Aqib Talib took things too far.
Talib can be shown ripping Crabtree's chain for the second time in as many seasons. Crabtree piledrives Denver's top cornerback to the ground on the Broncos sideline, and then got his helmet ripped off in a full-on melee. The pair threw punches, and others got caught in the wash of something everyone seemed to see coming.
Talib says he wasn't planning on it, that Crabtree prompted the dustup.
"I came out there to play football on Sunday and I don't really know what he came out there to do," Talib told reporters in Denver. "I came out there to play football and he came out here on this extra stuff, so one thing lead to another. It's unfortunate and I wish it didn't happen, but it happened. Just have to move on."
Talib said Crabtree's shot to Harris Jr. didn't prompt the second chain grab. Talib said Crabtree struck again.
"I didn't even defend Chris," Talib said. If you see the play, I didn't defend Chris. He punched Chris and the next play he came and punched me. He was on his-whatever he was on. I wasn't even defending Chris this time. That wasn't even a problem."
The Broncos call Crabtree the instigator. We haven't heard Crabtree's take. The Raiders receiver has talked once since the start of the offseason program, following a victory over Kansas City. He was not in the locker room after Sunday's win. Those who spoke said the same thing, that they knew Crabtree and Talib had a history.
That dates back to the 2016 regular-season finale, when Talib snatched his chain for no reason. Crabtree didn't retaliate then, making a "business decision" to focus on winning a division title (and securing a performance bonus).
He seemed ready for this one. According to an ESPN report, Crabtree wore a chain as he always does, but taped it to his body. Talib got it anyway.
The fight got out of hand from there, even with a Raiders season hanging in the balance. Crabtree and Talib seemed willing to engage on several occasions.
Talib admits the fight went on too long.
"I guess the second half of it definitely could have been defused," he said. "That's what I'm disappointed about, the second half of it. The first half, that was him being extra. That's what he wanted. He didn't want to play that game, he wanted to come out and wrestle all day. It's alright."