JACKSONVILLE – Malik Jackson left no doubt.
The Jaguars' defensive tackle's view of the first-half incident Sunday that led to the ejection of Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey and wide receiver A.J. Green? Simple.
Ramsey shouldn't have been ejected.
That was the opinion of several Jaguars players following a 23-7 victory over the Bengals at EverBank Field Sunday, and Jackson was among multiple Jaguars players expressing disappointment with Green's actions.
"Unprofessional," Jackson said. "Eighteen (Green) has to be better. I just watched it on my phone. I saw it. Jalen didn't do anything wrong in my opinion."
Ramsey, the Jaguars' second-year cornerback, and Green – the Bengals' six-time Pro Bowl receiver – talked and motioned back and forth through much of the first half before Ramsey shoved Green to the ground with less than 20 seconds remaining in the half. That came after a one-yard run by Bengals running back Joe Mixon.
Green took Ramsey to the ground by the neck, then threw at least one punch before Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack knocked Green away from Ramsey. The situation then turned into a scrum.
"I don't want to comment on something I didn't see the full, whole thing," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said. "I just saw the beginning, and I saw a flash. Those things unfortunately occur. It's not something that we like to do or be a part of or want to be a part of, but obviously, you know, it happened.
"They said there was a punch thrown and both players were ejected. That's what I was told by the officials."
Referee Brad Allen said in a pool interview conducted by Florida Times-Union reporter Ryan O'Halloran that Ramsey "was ejected for a flagrant personal foul, which started the altercation which resulted in a punch from No. 18 of Cincinnati [Green]. They were both disqualified. …"
Images from the Jaguars Week 9 matchup with the Bengals.
Allen was asked if Ramsey shoving Green to the ground resulted in an automatic ejection.
"I don't want to use the term 'automatic' because it would have been a [penalty] on its own but we also had a fight," Allen said. "We ended up with a fight by Cincinnati but we had the instigator in Jacksonville. Therefore, they were both disqualified."
Allen said Ramsey and Green had been warned before the play, which "absolutely" made the ejections easier.
Green told reporters afterward, "Whatever the punishment, I accept it. I put myself in that situation."
Ramsey did not speak to reporters afterward, but Jackson wasn't alone among Jaguars teammates who believed Green at fault.
"What I saw was a guy had gotten another guy's skin and he (Green) couldn't handle it," Jaguars safety Barry Church said. "He wasn't mature enough to handle the situation. He let somebody get under his skin and he exploded. From what I've seen, Jalen didn't even throw a punch.
"He (Green) came in with me. I'm eight years in the league and that dude's seven in the league. For him to let a younger guy get under his skin like that … it just shows a level of maturity. I was surprised when they ejected Jalen. He didn't throw a punch and he just kind of took it."
Marrone offered few details after the game about his decision to not play running back Leonard Fournette Sunday for what Marrone called in a pre-game statement: "an infraction of a team rule." Marrone said he planned to keep the matter internal, adding that disciplining a player is a difficult decision: "The empathy of it being a human being … there's a part of me that's an assistant coach. There's a part of me that is a coordinator, part of me that's a person and part of me that's … unfortunately, or fortunately, at times you've got to make tough decisions. That's what a head coach does." Marrone said he expects Fournette to play against the Los Angeles Chargers next Sunday.
Blake Bortles had little to say late Sunday afternoon about Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. "Somebody showed me it and you know – that's fine," Bortles said of Burfict's comment this week that while Fournette could beat the Bengals, Bortles could not. "I think Cincinnati has a bit of a reputation for the type of guys they are and I think you saw a little bit of that today." With Fournette not playing, Bortles completed 24 of 38 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. "I thought he was outstanding today," Marrone said of Bortles. "During the week obviously they said that he can't beat them. … I was a little bit concerned, just like if someone says something about me. I would want to go out there and try to prove myself or maybe force somethings, and I just thought he played well." Added Bortles, "I thought we did a good job as a team. I thought Jalen getting thrown out was BS and I thought we did a good job guys kind of keeping their head because they've had that reputation doing stuff like that. I thought we did a good job playing as hard as we possibly can between the whistles and beating the crap out of them."
"That [incident between Ramsey and Green] woke up the beast in us. They messed around and we unleashed it on them."