Perhaps there should be a justice system that allows an enraged, 300-pound defensive tackle to scale a 6-foot wall and put a few welts on the coward who just threw a bottle within inches of his head.
But there isn’t.
“Going up into the stands definitely is a no-no,” said Vikings Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle, who watched Sunday as his other former team, Seattle, became embroiled in an ugly game-ending scene that could have become a whole lot uglier for a league that’s struggling to contain its unattractive optics.
“My advice: Keep your helmet on and get to the locker room. No matter what.”
Seahawks defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson could have used that advice Sunday in Jacksonville. He was one of two Seahawks players ejected during fights that occurred on back-to-back plays as the Jaguars were lining up in victory formation.
Jefferson was almost to the locker room tunnel when a bottle of some kind came flying out of the stands.
“If you notice, the first thing he did [when the first bottle was thrown] was take off his helmet,” Randle said. “I was like, ‘Uh-oh, that’s the wrong thing to do. You might want to keep that helmet on.’ ”
Jefferson starts to argue with fans in the front row. Four stadium security officials try to defuse the situation. They fail. One climbs into the stands.
That’s when the true peacemaker stepped in to save Jefferson from being hauled away in cuffs, the Seahawks from losing a player to suspension during a playoff push and the NFL from a never-ending video loop of a uniformed player in the stands beating the tar out of some fans.
“That was Erik Kennedy, the Seahawks’ equipment manager,” said Randle, referring to the large man with the gray beard and gray shirt. “That player is lucky Erik was there to look out for him. It takes a village to stick together.”
Kennedy has been Seattle’s equipment manager about five years longer than the 24-year-old Jefferson has been alive.
At first, Kennedy was doing a good job holding on to and speaking some sense into Jefferson. Then another coward threw another bottle within inches of Jefferson’s face.
Jefferson shed Kennedy’s grasp and bolted for the wall. Kennedy was in hot pursuit when Jefferson stuck a hand on the railing to hoist himself into the crowd.
Kennedy reached up with his left arm and horse-collared Jefferson back to the ground as enough sanity was restored to get the big man into the locker room.
“I’m not saying I’m the perfect guy, and I had my antics on the football field, too,” said Randle, who doubled as a Hall of Fame-caliber trash talker. “But I knew after the game not to retaliate against the fans. Just keep that helmet on and get out of there.”
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett instigated the whole thing when he rolled into the legs of center Brandon Linder and took him to the ground during the first victory formation snap.
“Everybody is remorseful,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday when no suspensions were handed down. “We don’t want to look like that. Ever.”
Bennett refused after the game to explain his actions. Then he stopped Jefferson as he was explaining his actions.
Meanwhile, in the winning locker room, quarterback Blake Bortles of the 9-4 Jaguars might have had the best explanation.
“It’s a little bit of people aren’t used to getting beat like that by the Jaguars,” he said.
And the NFL should be thankful that Kennedy’s well-timed horse-collar tackle saved Jefferson from doling out justice that certainly would deter future bottle-throwers but isn’t quite legal.
“Erik used to tell us he’s not just an equipment manager; he’s a fan of the game,” Randle said. “If he doesn’t step in there, that could have been a suspension, legal action, all that stuff.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL