GREEN BAY, Wis. – For his role in a fight at New Orleans on Sunday, the NFL has suspended Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans for next week’s game against the Green Bay Packers.
The decision was handed down by Jon Runyan Sr., the NFL’s vice president of football operations and the father of Packers starting left guard Jon Runyan Jr. He cited Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8(g), which prohibits “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,” as well as Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1, which prohibits any act that is “contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship.”
In a letter to Evans that was released by the NFL, Runyan wrote: “After a play had ended, you were walking toward your sidelines. When you noticed your teammates engaged in a confrontation with Saints’ players, you ran toward that area on the field and violently threw your body into and struck an unsuspecting opponent who was part of that confrontation. You knocked your opponent to the ground and a melee ensued involving players from both teams. Your aggressive conduct could have caused serious injury to your opponent and clearly does not reflect the high standards of sportsmanship expected of a professional.”
Evans can appeal. Who will hear the appeal? Perhaps former Buccaneers star Derrick Brooks, a Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker. The other option is former NFL receiver James Thrash.
During the fourth quarter of the Buccaneers-Saints showdown, Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady and New Orleans cornerback Marshon Lattimore exchanged some words. Bucs running back Leonard Fournette intervened, with he and Lattimore shoving each other. Evans than raced from the sideline and blasted Lattimore.
Lattimore and Evans were ejected. Only Evans was suspended.
“I know we were like trying to get a flag called or whatever and it wasn’t called," Evans said to BucsGameday. "All I see is Lattimore, he liked punched Lenny [Leonard Fournette] in the face or something like that and pushed Tom [Brady]. That’s all I saw. So, I just pushed him.”
Evans was suspended in 2017 after another battle with Lattimore. He did not expect to be suspended again.
“Nah, nah, nah. That was terrible [5 years ago]. 2017, I didn’t even get ejected and that was really a cheap shot,” Evans said. “This wasn’t. He punched my teammate in the face and I just pushed him to the ground.”
“Just trying to have my teammates back. I seen him [Lattimore] punch somebody in the face. I ain't gonna let that happen.”
If Evans is out against Green Bay, the Bucs could have a depleted receiver corps for the big Week 3 matchup. Star receiver Chris Godwin successfully came back from a torn ACL to play in Week 1, only to injure a hamstring. Also inactive against the Saints was oft-injured veteran Julio Jones with a knee injury.
Since entering the NFL in 2014, Evans has topped 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first eight NFL seasons. Last year, he caught 74 passes for 1,035 yards and 14 touchdowns. In three career regular-season games against Green Bay, he caught only 7-of-15 passes for 92 yards and zero touchdowns. In the 2020 NFC Championship Game that was won by the Bucs, Evans caught 3-of-8 passes for 51 yards and the opening touchdown.
Evans leads the Bucs with eight catches for 132 yards and one touchdown. Russell Gage is next with seven catches for 41 yards. Fournette (four catches, 19 yards) is the only other player with more than three receptions.
In Green Bay's bounce-back win over Chicago, the Packers limited the Bears to just 48 net passing yards.
“We set high goals for ourselves in that room,” cornerback Jaire Alexander said. “We want to be the best secondary in the league. It’s a long season. So, at the end of the year, we want to be the best and we’re just taking the steps towards it.”