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Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr cites ‘sucker punch’ from Raiders WR Michael Crabtree led to Aqib Talib chain ripping and ensuing brawl

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Denver Broncos vs Oakland Raiders Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images

They say it’s always the guy doing the retaliation who gets noticed and therefore the one who is blamed. In this case it was the second scrap that was noticed while the first one did not.

On the Raiders’ second series against the Broncos Sunday in Oakland, there was a big brawl that was sparked by a scuffle between Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib.

The two of them were carrying over an incident that happened in the season finale of last season in which Talib ripped off Crabtree’s necklace.

When the two teams faced each other in week four, Crabtree was out with injury, and it became clear early in this game that he wasn’t over it. Even earlier than initially thought.

We saw Talib rip off Crabtree’s chain again on a block, fully justifying Crabtree’s response to drive him off the field and onto his back on the sideline. But that play was apparently a carry-over from the play before in which Chris Harris Jr was slow to get up and was bent over catching his breath even after he did stand up. Though no one really knew why.

Harris was not happy at the time. He stood and stared at the Raiders sideline and pointed at who appeared to be Michael Crabtree. After the game, he said why.

“Yeah he just sucker punched me,” Harris said of Crabtree. “I have never seen that in the NFL. Today, he just came out wanting to fight. He didn’t want to play football. It was the second play of the game. It was a run play, I was playing man, and I wasn’t even doing anything. He just came in there, was like BAM, hit me right in the middle of the stomach and I just lost my breath.”

Here is that play:

The next play Crabtree was lined up on the right and went for the block on Talib, at which point his Broncos’ teammates say Talib retaliated to defense his teammate from the previous play.

“He was just upset,” Broncos safety Justin Simmons said of Talib. “Upset that one, Chris [Harris] is the farthest from a dirty player. I mean Chris is one of the most genuine guys that I ever met. So for him, he was walking off the field pissed, looking at he sideline yelling, so you know something was wrong. He said that Crabtree had hit him, uppercut him on the stomach on his way out. So Aqib took that personal. So I don’t know what happened on their side. Aqib said [Crabtree] tried to do the same thing to him. And obviously Aqib is a little more… not as genuine as Chris when it comes to that type of stuff. So he took it into his own hands.”

Talib retaliating for Crabtree’s uppercut is understandable. Though it’s hard to suggest there was anything from Crabtree on the next play that would suggest he was trying to punch him too. If Talib wanted an excuse to rip off Crabtree’s chain again, the punch to the gut of his teammate is probably enough.

The question now is whether Crabtree will receive additional punishment above and beyond his ejection and possible fine. The fight would raise that question alone. The uppercut to Chris Harris Jr will give the league even more to think about.