Titans wide receiver Harry Douglas sparked outrage on and off the field by diving at the knee of Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. in Tennessee’s 13-10 Week 14 win. Aqib Talib retaliated on the next play, initiating a fight with Douglas, which became a brawl with several players involved.
Douglas was not flagged for the block, but it could have caused serious injury to Harris. Douglas dove at Harris’s knee, leading with his helmet, despite the fact that neither was near the ball.
Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former vice president of officiating, said via Fox Sports that the play wasn’t a foul.
“Is it maybe dirty? I guess some people think that,” Pereira said. “But look, it’s not like it’s way out on the sideline. This is Chris Harris pursuing a running play, coming toward the pile in the middle of the field. So I really don’t see this as being necessarily dirty or — clearly not a foul.
“I mean, you hate to see people going at knees, but do you want them to go at the head?”
Pereira also said he did not believe the play warranted a fine.
After the game, Douglas insisted the play was legal.
“If they watch film, which they’re supposed to do in the NFL, you know I can cut block in the run game and that’s a legal play,” Douglas said. “I guess he didn’t watch film because if he watched me last week or any other game he would see what I do in the run game.”
Titans coach Mike Mularkey echoed Douglas’ comments, saying it was legal.
“I've been with Harry for six years. Harry cuts just about every game. No, I have no problem with it,” Mularkey said.
Douglas also said that Harris’s tempo on the play led to the result.
“Chris Harris had been loafing on the play. That’s what happened,” Douglas said, according to Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. “I play to the whistle. We looked at each other, head up. Yeah, he saw me. He was just loafing. Don’t loaf.”
Douglas reiterated that he’s not a dirty player.
“I’m a tough player. I’m a gritty player,” Douglas said. “I’m not a dirty player. I don’t care what anybody says. I’ve never been a dirty player.”
Cut blocks are mostly illegal, with a few exceptions, because they carry a high risk of significant injury. Harris did leave the game for a while, but avoided serious injury and was able to return in the second quarter.
“I can’t believe he did that,'' Harris said, according to Mike Klis of 9News. "Trying to take me out for the game, try to end my career. Hopefully, they go back and look at that and hit him with a fine.’’
The fallout from Douglas’ block on Harris was immediate. Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib confronted Douglas on the Titans’ sideline, and it turned into a brawl. Talib was flagged for initiating the altercation.
It turns out that wasn’t the first interaction between Talib and Douglas during the game.
“We had a play earlier in the game where (Talib) took a cheap shot on me,” Douglas said. “I didn’t say nothing. I didn’t get mad. But he got mad about the Chris Harris situation. And he tried to come at me? Yeah. That’s football.”
Broncos players had plenty to say about Douglas’ block after the loss.
Shane Ray felt that Talib’s reaction, and the ensuing brawl, was justified.
“When one of our leaders goes down in that kind of fashion, I mean, you’re poking at a pack of wolves,” Ray said, according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. “So the reaction they got is what they deserved.”
“It don’t matter how it went,” Talib said after the game. “He tried to do something dirty, so that’s why I’m going to beat his ass.”
And other players said that Douglas wasn’t the only Titans player who was operating outside of the NFL rulebook on Sunday.
Defensive end Derek Wolfe, who has been dealing with an elbow injury, said the Titans’ offensive line played dirty too.
“They were all doing dirty stuff,” Wolfe said, according to Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com. “Their whole offensive line’s dirty. I was getting grabbed by my elbow and yanked by my elbow, (they were) grabbing me by my elbow brace and pulling me to the ground. That’s the kind of stuff — that’s obviously the team they are.
“They’re dirty, and we combatted that.”
Talib isn’t finished with Douglas, either. The two players have the same agent, and Talib said he plans to fight Douglas the next time he sees him.
“It was a dirty play by a sorry player,'' Talib said, via Klis. "He don’t do (anything) coming into this game. He didn't catch no passes. He came into this game and chopped guys in the back. He got the same agent as me (Todd France) so when I see his ass in Atlanta I’m going to beat his ass.''
Douglas may face a fine from the league for the block, and despite his insistence that the hit wasn’t dirty, opponents may have a different perspective.
And this may not be the last these teams see of each other this season. Denver has a tough remaining schedule, with the Patriots, Chiefs and Raiders looming to finish the season, but the Broncos are currently penciled into the last wild card spot in the AFC. With the AFC South still up for grabs and the Titans and the division-leading Texans tied up at 7-6, Tennessee and Denver could meet again in the playoffs.