Late in the first half of Sunday's game between the Bengals and Colts, Indy linebacker Erik Walden was ejected for contact with an official. Several fans disagreed with it at the time, and it seems that Walden did too. The NFL fined him $27,562 for the penalty - the maximum fine that is permitted for a first time offender.
On Wednesday, Walden didn't mince any words about his thoughts on the fine. "I think it's nonsense," he said, via RTV6's Mike Chappell. "Tell Roger [Goodell] I appreciate it."
More from Walden, again per Chappell:
"Kinda knocked (umpire Bruce Stritesky's) hand down and looked around," Walden said. "He overreacted to it and threw the flag.
"It was unjust."
Walden didn't bother to plead his case to Stritesky.
"No, he already had his mind made up," he said. "I guess he had something against me.
"But we move forward to the Steelers. That's the most important thing."
Walden showed some of the media today the letter he received from the league telling him he had been fined, and he said that he does plan on appealing it. What makes the fine even more questionable is that Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, who was also ejected on Sunday for contacting an official, and the NFL in fact said that they made the wrong call. While everyone could tell that the official overacted in ejecting Kuechly, Walden thinks the same thing happened with him, and he certainly has a case.
It's important to note that we weren't on the field to know the intent behind Walden brushing the official's arm, but just from watching it the penalty seemed questionable at best. Now, by the most basic sense of the NFL's rules, what Walden did was certainly in violation - he contacted an official. But so did Kuechly, and the NFL said that it was the wrong call to penalize him. Walden's contact wasn't anything to eject or even penalize a guy over, unless the intent was out of anger toward the official, but did anyone really think that was the case? Certainly we don't know the intent behind it, but it didn't appear to be with bad intent. It looked rather to be a player who was being contacted by an official trying to get the official to stop touching him. And for that, Walden got ejected. Maybe the ref was right - but with the NFL already admitting one blown call for the same penalty this week and with how awful the referees have been overall this year, does anybody have confidence in them getting this one right either? The refs can make mistakes, and this year they've been making a lot of them. The NFL admitted one in the ejection of Luke Kuechly, but Erik Walden thinks a mistake was made in his ejection too.
Ultimately, I don't think the ref should throw that flag. If the officials can't handle being on a football field (where there inevitably will be contact), then perhaps the NFL should just put them in a booth - and with those views, maybe they'd even get more calls right. But if the contact that occurred on Sunday between Bruce Stritesky and Erik Walden was worthy of an ejection, I think the NFL needs to address the rule. Or what about when a player slaps an official on the butt after talking with him? Or what about when a ref does the same to the player? Are those things penalized for contact with an official? Of course not, and that's because the refs don't overreact to those situations. Apparently on Sunday, two officials in two different games overreacted to being contacted by football players on a football field. The NFL admitted one of them was wrong (and it absolutely was). The NFL fined the other player.
This is Walden's second incident in less than a year with the NFL. Last year against the Titans, Walden head-butted Titans tight end Delanie Walker and as a result was suspended one game. That one was an easy call that was just a stupid move by Walden. This one is much less certain, and Walden isn't happy about it.
But, as Walden noted, it's now on to Pittsburgh. He'll be out there suited up with his teammates for that game, and while he's not happy about the fine, he's moving on toward the Colts' next opponent, the Steelers.