TAMPA — Mike Evans is the biggest loser in another one-on-one battle with Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
The NFL suspended the Bucs receiver one game without pay Monday for creating what the league termed “a melee,” which ensued following his actions in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Tampa Bay win.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady exchanged words with Lattimore after the Bucs believed he had interfered during an incomplete pass to Scotty Miller. Running back Leonard Fournette pushed Lattimore from the side, and Lattimore responded by shoving Fournette below the facemask, throwing his head back.
That’s when Evans came charging off the sideline and knocked Lattimore to the turf. Both players were ejected following offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
It is a big loss for the Bucs, who will be without Evans for this Sunday’s home opener against the Packers. Evans plans to appeal the suspension.
In a letter announcing the sanctions, NFL vice president Jon Runyan writes that Evans “struck an unsuspecting opponent who was part of that confrontation.”
Runyan issued the suspension for violation of rules that prevents a player from “unnecessarily running, diving into, cutting or throwing the body against or on a player who is out of the play or should not have reasonably anticipated such contact by an opponent, before or after the ball is dead.”
In a letter to Evans, Runyan said, “You knocked your opponent to the ground and a melee ensued involving players from both teams. Your aggressive conduct could’ve caused serious injury to your opponent and clearly does not reflect the high standards of sportsmanship expected by a professional.”
Because Evans has a low base salary after restructuring his contract to create cap space, he will lose a game check worth $62,200.
The Bucs already are hurting at the receiver position. Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Julio Jones (knee) missed the Saints game.
Lattimore was not suspended for his role in the altercation but the league is reviewing the incident to determine if other players may be subject to fines.
“We don’t want any fighting in our game because we lose a good player,” coach Todd Bowles said Monday. “It doesn’t help our team. We don’t condone that. We don’t teach that. We don’t want that in our game. ...
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“We’ve got to try to move forward and try to find a way to win without him. But that should be a lesson to all our other players.”
Incidentally, Runyan’s son, Jon Jr., is an offensive guard for the Packers.
Following the game, Evans said he didn’t expect to be suspended.
“Nah, nah, nah. 2017, I didn’t even get ejected in that (game),” Evans said at the time. “That was really a cheap shot. This was he punched my teammate in the face and I pushed him on the ground.”
The NFL also is planning to address other things related to Sunday’s incident, including whether former Bucs coach Bruce Arians should be allowed to remain on the sideline.
Arians, who is now the senior advisor to general manager Jason Licht, could be seen working the officiating crew in New Orleans. That included the officials’ failure to call pass interference on Lattimore on that deep ball to Miller.
Arians had watched games during the preseason from a sky suite or box above the playing field. But he told the Tampa Bay Times the Saints had no such accommodations at the Superdome.
“The Saints didn’t have a box for us,” Arians said in a text. “So we had to be on the sideline. If I’m down there, I can’t help but work the officials.”
Bowles said Arians will watch games upstairs whenever a box is available.
“He’s always upstairs,” Bowles said. “(The Saints) didn’t have a box to give us this game, so everybody that was upstairs was downstairs.”
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