JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars' biggest home win in the past decade had an ugly ending. The Jaguars (9-4) took exception to the way the Seahawks (8-5) handled the final snaps, two kneel-downs in the closing seconds of Jacksonville's 30-24 victory.
Seahawks defensive tackle Michael Bennett dived at center Brandon Linder's knees, setting off a near-melee. Sheldon Richardson was ejected for throwing a punch, and Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette went after Bennett.
"There's no room in the game for that," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "You see we're kneeling. You can get somebody hurt. We're out there trying to kneel. There are no timeouts. You guys can't stop the clock, so why try to hurt somebody? We had 60 minutes to handle that. The last 30 seconds, while we're kneeling, you're going to spear somebody in the legs? That's not cool."
More pushing and shoving ensued after quarterback Blake Bortles' next kneel-down, and Seahawks defensive end Quinton Jefferson was tossed. What happened next set off an ugly chain of events.
As Jefferson was jogging off the field, something whizzed by his head.
Jefferson, who is 6-4 and weighs 291 pounds, stopped, pulled off his helmet and headed toward a rowdy section of fans.
Jefferson pushed aside security guards and started jawing with the spectators. Just when it looked like Jefferson was about to walk away for good, what looked like a cup of beer came flying out of the seats. That prompted Jefferson to rush toward the stands and start trying to climb up. He had to be restrained, pulled back by his shoulder pads, and escorted to the locker room.
Jaguars personnel said after reviewing video footage of the incident that four fans threw five objects from the stands, including plastic cups filled with ice and liquid, a bag of popcorn and a plastic bottle.
The team said it is working to identify the individuals who threw the objects, and they will be contacted and have their season tickets revoked and/or ticket-buying privileges suspended.
All of them will be banned from attending future games, the team said.
"The Jacksonville Jaguars in no way condone the behavior of a small group of fans that occurred at the conclusion of Sunday’s Jaguars vs. Seahawks game, which involved the throwing of several items on to the field in the direction of a visiting player," the team said in a statement. "We’re grateful for the immediate response by stadium security personnel to the situation."
The Jaguars said they are committed to creating a safe and enjoyable experience for fans and visiting players.
"It is unfortunate that the actions of a few would tarnish the reputation of the Jaguars fan base and the positive, electric game day atmosphere at yesterday’s game," the team's statement said. "EverBank Field is well-known around the league for its world-class game day experience and the manner in which visiting fans are treated. In advance of this Sunday’s final regular season home game we want to remind our fans of the Fan Code of Conduct and encourage them to enjoy the game by showing proper respect to others."
What didn't make TV
Two die-hard Jaguars fans who were seen jawing back and forth with Jefferson described what escalated the altercation.
John Love and Bruce Jones told News4Jax that after a fan near them threw beer at Jefferson, the fan went even further.
"He ended up calling him a few things, saying the n-word and stuff like that," Love said.
Despite what the fan said to Jefferson, Love said, he and several others were standing their ground to prevent the nearly 300-pound defensive end from putting his hands on the fan.
“We're just trying to enjoy the game. At the time, we were so riled up. He said a few words, and we said a few words as fans because we stuck behind the guy even though he was wrong," Love said. "When we are in that stadium, it’s all about teal. So we try to defend the fans and back everybody up.”
If Jefferson had been able to get into the stands, Jones said, "he would have gotten hit as soon as he came up there.”
That's what the NFL tries to prevent, especially after a similar incident in 2004 when former NBA player Ron Artest delivered a beating on fans after a man in the stands threw a cup of Diet Coke on him.
Following Sunday’s altercation, Love said, more needs to be done to prevent future skirmishes between fans and football players.
“He was fighting through security and all and they couldn't contain him," Love said. "Obviously, they need some bigger people on the field.”
Love and Jones said they feel vilified by national television sports reporters, who have labeled them as thugs, when all they wanted to do is enjoy a football game. But they added that they were prepared to defend themselves against Jefferson if he got closer.
Now, many parents are asking if it’s a good idea to bring children to a sporting event where there’s plenty of alcohol, and emotions can run high.
“It’s more of a teaching experience than it is anything. You have to teach them or how are they going to learn?" football fan Meka Kephard said. "They’re going to be shelters and they’re not going to know.”
Player's 'unacceptable' behavior
Former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell said that was an unacceptable move, no matter what the fans did.
“Listen, I’ve been yelled at before. I’ve had stuff thrown at me. It just kind of goes with the job,” Brunell said. “It’s unfortunate. You don’t want to see it, but there are some Jaguars fans out there that get pretty heated and get pretty emotional.”
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Jefferson "just kind of lost it."
"Somebody poured a beer on his head walking out of the stadium or something," Carroll said. "I told him that's pro football. They pay to get in. They can do whatever they want, I guess, so that's what happened."
Former Jaguars linebacker Jason Babin, who is no stranger to on-the-field scuffles, said it's somewhat satisfying to see an opponent get emotional.
“To see someone melt down after you beat them, it is somewhat enjoyable,” Babin said, adding that he never tried to climb into the stands. “But it’s one of those things. It’s an emotional game. I like guys who are emotional, but sometimes it’s a little too far.”
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said in light of the incident, he's reminded his players how to respond if fans get rowdy.
"Be a pro," he said. "Your expectations are to be a professional."
According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the league is considering discipline for the players involved, but that will not include any suspensions.
“The home team does have responsibility for security, and we work closely with all 32 of our clubs on those issues,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told Profootballtalk.com. “We are going to be looking at and talking to both clubs about a variety of things in that game, particularly at the end where we had a series of ejections, on-field issues and then leaving the field. We will be working with the club to identify those who might have been involved in throwing objects or acting outside the rules we expect of our fans. That has already begun, as well as our football operations department looking at on-field stuff. Nothing to report at this point, but all of this will be looked at thoroughly.”
Some fans said the incident should be a wakeup call to the NFL as a whole.
“I think the NFL has to do a better job of handling these situations," NFL fan Dan Gebhard said. "They announced they are not going to suspend any of the players, and that’s a big problem."