Somehow, the Colts' Erik Walden was allowed to stay in Thursday night's game after ripping the helmet off Tennessee's Delanie Walker and then headbutting him in the chin. Walden may not be so fortunate in the coming days, as the NFL almost certainly will hand down some sort of punishment for the transgression.
Walker and Walden were engaged on a run play when Walden grabbed Walker's face mask and tossed his helmet several yards downfield. Walker threw his arms out in disgust, then walked toward Walden to exchange words -- at which point Walden delivered a clear headbutt.
The officials flagged Walden 15 yards for unnecessary roughness but allowed him to stay in the game.
“That’s dirty play, there is no need for stuff like that in the NFL,” Walker told ESPN.com. “If you’re getting your butt kicked, get your butt kicked. Don’t rip somebody’s helmet off and then head butt them. I’m surprised he didn’t get ejected."
That penalty was the third straight play on which Indianapolis have been hit with a personal foul flag. Robert Mathis received a questionable roughing the passer call for a hit on Titans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, then Cassius Vaughn was penalized during a tussle with Kendall Wright.
While both of those plays may have been borderline calls, the one on Walden was obvious and should have resulted in an ejection. Walker's response -- a punch to Walden's helmet -- also could have warranted an ejection, though the Titans' tight end was not flagged for his role in the play.
"It was a selfish act," Walden said, per Paul Kuharsky. "It could have cost my team bigger than I did. I lost my composure. It something that can’t happen. It wasn’t really something he did, it was ticky-tack. I can’t allow myself to take it that far." At the very least, Walden figures to face a fine from the league, and he could be suspended for Indianapolis' Week 12 game at Arizona. Houston's Antonio Smith had to sit out his team's season-opener, after the NFL handed him a one-game suspension for ripping off Richie Incognito's helmet and swinging it at the Dolphins' lineman during a preseason game. Walden's actions may be considered comparable in their illegality.