KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Some disgruntled Kansas City Chiefs fans paid for a banner to be flown behind a plane before Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium with the Baltimore Ravens.
The message? It was asking for the Chiefs brass to fire general manager Scott Pioli, as well as benching quarterback Matt Cassel.
The much-maligned Cassel passed for only 92 yards, threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles, including one at the Ravens’ 1-yard line, during a 9-6 loss to Baltimore, featuring the NFL’s No. 2-ranked offense, which survived despite not scoring a touchdown.
As it turned out, Cassel suffered a concussion, instead of getting benched.
At the 10:10 mark in the fourth quarter and the Ravens leading 9-3, Cassel was knocked out of the game with what the Chiefs described as a head injury after he was hit by Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata after making a 16-yard completion to running back Jamaal Charles.
Some of the Chiefs fans cheered when Cassel was helped from the field and replaced by backup Brady Quinn, who took over at the Kansas City 46 and later had a go-ahead 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe nullified on an offensive pass interference call on teammate Dexter McCluster.
The Chiefs had to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Ryan Succop, cutting the margin to 9-6 with 4:34 remaining, and had the hopes of getting the ball back. But it never happened, as the Ravens drove for two first downs and ran out the clock.
WINSTON LASHES OUT
After the game, Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Winston lashed out at the fans who cheered when Cassel left the game injured, telling newspaper and radio reporters if his comments weren’t aired or published, he was done talking to them for good.
“We are athletes, OK?,” Winston said. “We are athletes. We are not gladiators. This is not the Roman Colosseum. People pay their hard-earned money when they come in here and I believe they can boo, they can cheer and they can do whatever they want, I believe that. We are lucky to play this game. People, it’s hard to economic times, and they still pay the money to do this.”
Winston said some of the fans crossed the line.
“When somebody gets hurt, there are long-lasting ramifications to the game we play,” he said. “I’ve already kinda come to the understanding that I won’t live as long because I play this game and that’s OK, that’s a choice I’ve made and a choice all of us have made.”
The 6-foot-7, 302-pound Winston is a seven-year pro out of the University of Miami, who signed as a free agent prior to this season.
“I get emotional about it because these guys, they work their butts off,” Winston said. “Matt Cassel hasn’t done anything to you people, hasn’t done anything to the media writers that kill him, hasn’t done anything wrong to the people that come out here and cheer him.
“Hey, if he’s not the best quarterback, then he’s not the best quarterback, and that’s OK. But he’s a person, and he got knocked out in a game and we have 70,000 people cheering that he got knocked out?”
Winston was exaggerating the number of fans that booed — by a long shot.
“Boo him all you want,” Winston said. “Boo me all you want. Throw me under the bus. Tell me I’m doing a bad job. Say I gotta protect him more. Do whatever you want. Say whatever you want.
“But if you are one of those people that were out there cheering or even smiled when he got knocked out, I just want to let you know, and I want everybody to know, that I think it’s sickening and disgusting.”
Winston said he was willing to talk for as long as it took.
“I’ll sit here and I’ll answer all your questions for the next 30 minutes,” he said, “If you want to ask them and I’ll take all the responsibility because I deserve it, but don’t blame a guy and don’t cheer for a guy (when he gets hurt), who has done everything in his power to play as good as he can for the fans.
“It’s sickening, and I was embarrassed. I want every single one of you people to put this on your station and in your newspapers because I want every fan to know that. This is a game that’s going to cost us a lot down the road. That’s OK. We picked it, we deserve it and I don’t want your pity. But we have a lot of problems as a society if people think that’s OK. I’ll get off my soap box, and you guys can ask any football questions you want.”