After being ejected from Sunday's 34-31 loss to the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jason Jones will be hearing from the NFL office sometime this week.
To what extent the league office will make its voice heard in the form of fines and/or suspensions depends on whether or not Jones’ story that he did not punch a Texans player will be believed.
Jones was ejected from the game in the fourth quarter for allegedly punching a player on the Texans sideline after a scuffle between Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan and Texans receiver Andre Johnson spilled over into the bench area.
There were unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called on each team, making the fouls offsetting.
“I saw Cortland and Andre going at it, and once I got to the sideline, it seemed like the whole team was going against Cortland,” Jones said. “I was just there trying to help out a teammate. I only pushed one guy, and the ref ejected me right away. He said, ‘You can’t do that. You’re ejected.’ I was helping out my teammate, that’s what I thought I did. I’ve already apologized to my d-line. I’ve just got to learn from it.”
Jones insists, however, that he did not throw a punch in the melee, as referee Walt Coleman said he did.
“I was under control. It’s not like I went over there to stir up anything. I saw it. I stopped, and I saw them fighting,” Jones explained. “Once they got to their sideline, all the blue jerseys got on top of him. I went over there. I pushed one guy and the ref ejected me right away. He pulled me away and put me back on the field, while everything was still going on, he ejected me. I didn’t throw a punch. I just pushed a guy.”
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said the decision to eject Jones was justified if the defensive tackle indeed threw a punch.
“I was told he went into the bench swinging, and if he does, he should have been kicked out,” Fisher said. “He should be fined substantially if he did it. I have to find out. I didn’t see it.”
Video from CBS, which televised the game, shows that Jones at one point extends his arm, but it is a Texans' player (possibly Mario Williams) that throws at least two punches. No Texan player was ejected.
The Titans were already playing one short at defensive tackle, because of a decision deactivate both Kevin Vickerson and Sen’Derrick Marks, leaving them only Tony Brown and Jovan Haye to finish, though ends Dave Ball and William Hayes can play inside if needed.
Prior to the fight on the sideline, there had been chippiness throughout the game, including Kyle Vanden Bosch jawing with some Texans offensive linemen after one play and several other incidents involving talking and pushing and shoving.
Linebacker Keith Bulluck was not impressed with the extracurricular activities.
“I don’t have energy to waste on that [expletive]. I would say it’s because of competitiveness,” he said. “I would say it’s just because of competing and talking back and forth. We just happened to get trapped on their sideline [during the fight].”
Bizarre play all-around
Craig Hentrich suffered a calf injury on a bizarre play at the end of the third quarter and it is not yet known how much time the veteran punter will miss.
Hentrich was down on a play where it appeared that Texans return man Jacoby Jones had fumbled the punt inside his 10-yard line right into the hands of Titans rookie Jason McCourty, only to have McCourty penalized for fair catch interference, giving possession back to Houston.
Once Hentrich was injured, the Titans out of desperation had both kicker Rob Bironas and safety Donnie Nickey practice punting, and eventually went with Bironas, who got off a 40-yard line drive punt that was downed with no return.
The Titans could look to re-sign punter A.J. Trapasso, who was solid during the preseason.
As for the ruling on the fumble, Fisher and the Titans vehemently protested the call that gave possession back to the Texans, but later the coach said the ruling had been made correctly. A return man signaling fair catch is allowed every chance to field the ball until it hits the ground.
“It is frustrating, because it is huge,” Fisher said. “You have a first-and-[goal] on the nine, and then you don’t.”
For his part, McCourty said fielding the ball as it popped loose was a natural reaction
“We were on the sideline celebrating the play, thinking that play maybe could have change the game. But I guess they made the right call, and you’ve got to learn from the rules. It’s a play that doesn’t happen that often,” McCourty said.
Many unhappy returns
For the second straight game, the Titans return teams were less than impressive. Kickoff return man Javon Ringer muffed one kickoff return, but managed to get out to the 25-yard line. Ringer averaged just 20.3 yards per return.
Punt returns were a struggle, too, as rookie Ryan Mouton took over that role and tried to catch one punt over the shoulder inside his 10. He muffed the punt, but recovered at his own 1.
Too much water
Receiver Nate Washington had to leave the field just before halftime, after he became queasy and threw up water on the field.
“I had never played in this climate before and everybody told me to drink a lot of water,” he said. “I drank so much it filled me up and then when I started breathing heavy, it all just forced its way out. It was all water that came out.”
No field goal
The Titans decided to go for it on fourth-and-6 from the Texans’ 33 in the fourth quarter with the game tied at 31-all, rather than have Rob Bironas try a 51-yard field goal.
Instead, Kerry Collins threw deep to Justin Gage, who caught the ball out of bounds.
“It was wind and field position,” Fisher said of disdaining the field goal. “I liked our chances of converting.”
Also, holder Hentrich was out of the game at that point, which meant that Donnie Nickey would have been the holder.
Mechelle McNair, the widow of former Titans’ quarterback Steve McNair, and the couple’s two children participated in the pre-game coin toss. Fans were given No. 9 decals to honor McNair as well and a video tribute to the quarterback was shown … Former Houston/Tennessee offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, a current assistant coach with the Texans, was given a game ball after the Texans' win.
- City Paper senior sports writer David Boclair contributed to this report.