So why exactly did Dolphins defensive tackle Akeem Spence get kicked out of Sunday’s Dolphins-Raiders game?
It might depend on your interpretation of the preceding events. Spence had one, the officials had another.
Here are the facts, and they are not in dispute:
It was early in the second quarter Sunday, and the Raiders faced third-and-6 at their own 41.
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Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake seemed to end the drive by sacking Derek Carr for a loss of 8 yards.
But flags flew, and Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele emerged from a scrum without a helmet. Spence had it in his hand.
The officials huddled, and then handed out their punishment: Spence was penalized and ejected for unnecessary roughness.
Video replayed showed what led to the altercation: that Spence and Osemele got into a shoving match after the play ended, Spence went to the ground and when he got up, he had the helmet in his grasp. The helmet then made contact with another Raiders lineman, Gabe Jackson, before Spence finally released it.
But Spence insisted Monday that he did not (and would never) intentionally use his helmet as a weapon.
“Anybody that knows me, I’m always trying to be the first one to go celebrate with the teammate,” Spence said. “The guard, we know Oakland’s O-line, we know what they do, we know how they play, they’re extra after the whistle. And me, trying to go celebrate with a teammate, but a guy put hands on me and I’m simply trying to protect myself, keep him up off me and it turned into a little scrum so my teammates came over to help me. The rest is pretty much history.”
Spence added: “Y’all saw the helmet in my hand, but me being the person that I am, I’m never going to hit nobody with a helmet. Never going to put nobody’s career in jeopardy, nothing like that. ... I didn’t know they were handing out ejections for ripping guys’ helmets off now.”
The penalty could have been costly; it extended a drive that ended in a Raiders field goal. And it was the third incident in as many games involving a Dolphins defensive lineman that had the opposition bothered. In the Dolphins’ season opener, both Andre Branch and William Hayes delivered legal hits that resulted in injuries to Titans offensive lineman Taylor Lewan and quarterback Marcus Mariota, respectively. Branch was later fined not for the hit, but for taunting.
Still, Titans players and coaches criticized each exchange in the hours and days that followed.
“I felt really bad about it because I thought I almost took Cam’s sack away and then the defensive guys — lost a D-tackle, lost Will – and the defense is in a bad position,” Spence said. “The defense is out there with three D-tackles, three ends, trying to play a rotation that they never played, and I felt really bad for that. Just putting guys in an awkward position on defense, it sucks.”
▪ Receiver Kenny Stills called for the NFL to limit how many cameramen and women are allowed to set up behind the end zone after he crashed into one during his 34-yard touchdown catch Sunday, leaving a gash on his right leg.
There is not much room to maneuver in that area since the stands reach out to within just a few feet of the back of the end zone.
Stills said that “it’s safe, but I think it’s more of we have a zillion camera people back there. They’ve got to be a little bit more conscious of when we’re close to that end zone, moving more people out to the side. ... It’s frustrating to get banged up by something outside of the defense.”
▪ Linebacker Chase Allen might not miss any additional time with a minor foot/toe injury that knocked him out of Sunday’s game. Allen said he is day-to-day.
▪ Minkah Fitzpatrick “was good” at safety in place of the injured Reshad Jones, Dolphins coach Adam Gase said, and added that Fitzpatrick got blamed for some breakdowns that were not his fault.
▪ Receiver Albert Wilson’s game-clinching jet sweep looked “terrible” all week in practice, but Gase still had conviction to run it at a critical time. Sometimes “you have to go with your gut,” Gase said.