Kurtenbach: The NFL tried to embarrass Michael Crabtree — it embarrassed itself instead


The NFL’s initial punishment of Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree was excessive — two games, on top of an ejection that excluded Crabtree for nearly a full game for fighting?

Yes, Crabtree was the focal point of an ugly on-field fracas, but there was no precedent to suspend him two games for what happened at the Coliseum on Sunday.

It’s obvious that the NFL, which is stuck in a terrible public relations tailspin, was trying to make an example out of Crabtree and Denver’s Aqib Talib by hitting them with two-game bans on Monday.

Crabtree and Talib weren’t being punished for fighting — they were being punished for making the league look bad.

It turns out kind of empty justice didn’t hold up to even the slightest amount of scrutiny, as both Crabtree and Talib appealed their suspensions Tuesday and had both reduced to one game.

The NFL came out strong against the players —it was trying to embarrass them for their ridiculous row — but just 24 hours later, it pulled its heavy-handed suspension back.

The NFL somehow came out of this whole thing as the embarrassed party.

As DJ Khalid would say: “Congratulations, you played yourself.”

Given how ridiculous everything in this saga has been — a dumb fight that led to an over-the-top punishment — it’d be ridiculous to say that Crabtree’s now one-game suspension is probably too much as well, but it might have been. After all, these guys did miss all but a few snaps Sunday.

Alas, the NFL’s one-game suspension of Mike Evans for jumping Marshon Lattimore a few weeks back — the first suspension in NFL history (as far as I can tell) that could be for throwing punches — stands as precedent now.

It’s important to note that the man who handed down the original suspension, Jon Ruynan — the guy who said that violence has “no place in this game” (referring to football…) — isn’t the same person who ruled over the appeals. That would be James Thrash.

So it was Thrash who heard Crabtree and Talib’s suspensions, looked at Ruynan’s decision and said “that’s too much”.

At least someone is acting logically in the NFL league office. It’s just a shame that it took a day for that person to have their say — not to mention a colossal waste of everyone’s time.

I’d suggest that the NFL takes a look at its suspension guidelines as to prevent something from this from ever happening again, but asking the NFL to fix a problem is only inviting it to exacerbate the issue.

Crabtree’s suspension being limited to a relatively just one game was the second bit of good news the Raiders received on Tuesday — earlier in the day their opponent for this weekend’s critical game, the Giants, announced that they were going to turn Sunday’s contest into a preseason game by playing two quarterbacks, Geno Smith and rookie Davis Webb.

The Raiders would have certainly wanted Crabtree on the field for Sunday’s game — particularly with No. 1 wide receiver Amari Cooper injured — but it’s hard to say that Oakland will need Crabtree to beat a two-win team that’s traveling cross-country to continue a season they have already quit. If the Raiders lose that game, the first scapegoat won’t be Crabtree.

Crabtree will be back for the Raiders’ all-important game against the Chiefs on Dec. 10, though — something that wasn’t going to be the case unless the NFL self-corrected — and that’s a huge relief for the Raiders, who will need all hands on deck for that contest, which could determine the AFC West leader.

What a strange season it has been.

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