Eric Winston rips fans' reaction
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Members of the Kansas City Chiefs spoke out angrily Sunday against thousands of fans who cheered when quarterback Matt Cassel left a 9-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens with a concussion.
Cassel has been the focus of frustrated fans for the past couple of years, many of them booing him when he appeared during a celebrity softball game this summer. Someone even had hired a plane to fly over Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday with a banner that called for Cassel to be benched.
The angst reached a tipping point when Cassel, who committed three turnovers against Baltimore, was hammered by the Ravens' Haloti Ngata while completing a pass in the fourth quarter.
Cassel remained on his back for several minutes while fans began to cheer. He eventually got to his feet with some help and walked off the field under his own power.
"It's 100 percent sickening," Chiefs tackle Eric Winston said. "I've never, ever -- and I've been in some rough times on some rough teams -- I've never been more embarrassed in my life to play football than at that moment right there. I get emotional about it because these guys, they work their butts off. Matt Cassel hasn't done anything to you people.
"Hey, if he's not the best quarterback, he's not the best quarterback, and that's OK, but he's a person," Winston continued, the big offensive lineman's voice slowly rising. "And he got knocked out in a game and we've got 70,000 people cheering that he got knocked out."
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Asked about his comments on Monday, Winston said he didn't regret anything he said.
"I meant what I said. I didn't say it off the cuff. ... I look back on it, and I'm happy with what I said," Winston said, according to the Kansas City Star.
He did say however, that he's sorry if he implied that all of the Chiefs' fans in the stadium on Sunday were celebrating Cassel's injury.
"I didn't mean all 70,000 were cheering," he said Monday, according to the newspaper. "It might have been 7,000. It might have been 700. It's still too many. Of anything I said, that's the one thing that might have been misconstrued. That was the one thing just looking back on it that I want to make sure people know, that I didn't think it was the whole stadium."
The Chiefs initially said only that Cassel suffered a "head injury," and coach Romeo Crennel said he wasn't sure whether he'd been taken to a hospital. Brady Quinn finished the game.
Crennel said Monday he's not yet ruling Cassel out for next weekend's game against the Buccaneers, but he also said that the quarterback's health is of paramount importance.
Crennel said that Quinn will prepare to start next Sunday's game and that Ricky Stanzi would be the backup quarterback if Cassel is unavailable.
We are not gladiators and this is not the Roman Colosseum. This is a game. This is a game that's going to cost us a lot down the road. That's OK. We picked it. We deserve it. I don't want your pity. But we've got a lot of problems as a society if people think that's OK.” -- Eric Winston
"We are not gladiators and this is not the Roman Colosseum. This is a game," said Winston, who spoke to Cassel briefly in the locker room after the game. "This is a game that's going to cost us a lot down the road. That's OK. We picked it. We deserve it. I don't want your pity. But we've got a lot of problems as a society if people think that's OK."
Cassel was intercepted twice by the Ravens, though both passes were tipped. He also was charged with a lost fumble, a flubbed exchange with Kansas City facing first-and-goal at the Baltimore 1.
"It's not right, you know what I'm saying? I'll speak that for any stadium, any player to get hurt," said Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL.
"When someone gets booed, it's not right. It's his health. You know what I'm saying? He got hurt. You have to respect," Charles said. "It wasn't right that he got booed."
Once a Pro Bowl quarterback, Cassel is completing just 58.5 percent of his passes this season, with five touchdowns and nine interceptions. He's averaging just 6.5 yards per pass attempt.
"I knew I hit him hard, but I didn't think it was hard enough to take him out. I thought I hit him right in the ribs," Ngata said. "Hopefully, he bounces back and gets better."
As for the cheering? Even the Ravens thought it uncouth.
"For them to cheer for him being hurt," Ngata said, "that's just not cool."
Perhaps the most egregious example of fans cheering an injury to a player occurred in Philadelphia in October 1999, when Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin was cheered by Eagles fans as he lay motionless on the turf with a neck injury. The difference, of course, in the comparison to the Cassel situation is that the boos came from opposing fans.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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