After what had been a relatively quiet, drama-free preseason, the Jaguars shook things up in stunning fashion Sunday and not in a good way.
No doubt, the resulting suspensions of All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey (reported as one week by the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport) and Dante Fowler will be viewed by Jaguars fans as disappointing, but there should also be a genuine appreciation shown for the front office and coach Doug Marrone by not letting high-profile players get away with inexcusable, unprofessional behavior.
Both Ramsey and Fowler were suspended for what the Jaguars said was"violating team rules and conduct unbecoming of a Jaguars football player," the last part clearly being the most telling part of the punishment. Ramsey acted like a complete jerk after practice ended when an altercation erupted between Fowler and fellow defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who have a history of not being on the friendliest terms. When Ramsey saw a couple media members recording the incident on their phones, he warned them in an obscenity-laced tirade to stop recording, though it was fair game since there were no rules prohibiting it.
Later, after requesting to speak to the media, Ramsey – instead of apologizing for his previous outburst – became even more dismissive and threatened the media with a team-wide boycott on interviews. Times-Union beat writer Phil Heilman did his job and posted the video despite Ramsey’s childish action, which led to his public threat on social media.
>> Ramsey, Fowler suspended by Jaguars for ‘unbecoming conduct’
>> Twitter reaction to the Jaguars suspending Jalen Ramsey, Dante Fowler
Via Twitter, Ramsey posted: “@phillip_heilman you know u done messed up right? Lol if y’all want war, we got sum for y’all. & I know he rest of y’all (you know who you are) gone read this too so just know. #LameA**Reporters”
For those who know Ramsey only as a talented, brash-talking superstar, this epic rant was a revealing peek into the petulant, immature side of his persona that fans rarely see. It’s not the least bit surprising Ramsey, whose confidence can rise well above cockiness and to a narcisstic-type level, went off on the media in this fashion because he’s a major diva accustomed to getting his way because of his talent.
Plus, it’s no secret Ramsey, who can be charming and funny when he chooses to be, has long had an antagonistic relationship with the media. He was one of four Jaguars who didn’t show up for the national anthem last week against the New Orleans Saints, then didn’t appear in the locker room after the game to defend his stance, unlike Telvin Smith and Leonard Fournette, both of whom spoke about it afterwards.
Though I wasn’t at Sunday’s practice, several of my media colleagues told me Ramsey chastised the group for their “negativity” about the team. But when challenged for examples of such negativity, Ramsey offered up nothing.
>> 10 things to know about Jalen Ramsey
>> 10 things to know about Dante Fowler
We don’t know for certain if the Jaguars decided to suspend Ramsey before or after he posted that tweet at 4:59 p.m. (they didn’t announce the penalty until after 7 p.m.). In either case, it’s obvious front office czar Tom Coughlin, GM Dave Caldwell and Marrone felt compelled to rein in two talented players that have different kind of maturity issues.
It’s only a guess that Fowler, who had recently returned to practice from the PUP list, might have been suspended because the Jaguars either determined he instigated the fight with Ngakoue or had simply accumulated too much baggage. Fowler had been thrown out of practice on two previous occasions in his career, plus was suspended by the NFL for the September 9 season opener by violating the league’s personal conduct policy related to other knucklehead off-the-field incidents.
While both will likely miss two practices with the Minnesota Vikings and Saturday’s preseason road game, the bigger issue moving forward is how this embarrassing display and Ramsey’s public threats against the media might impact the locker room. Don't forget, No. 20 is likely going to want to be the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL when he signs his next contract, but if he becomes too much of a distraction, the Jaguars might well make him wait another couple years and still have the franchise tag to use as leverage.
Everything appeared to be going smoothly in training camp until these multiple dust-ups erupted. It’s going to be a test for Marrone and the locker room leadership, which doesn’t have the retired Paul Posluszny to act as a peacemaker, to make sure this preseason friction becomes just a minor bump in the road.
That means veterans like Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson and Smith must be pro-active in convincing the 23-year-old Ramsey to save his alpha-dog antics for legal purposes on the field. And if the Jaguars decide to keep Fowler for this 2018 season, which is almost certainly his last in Jacksonville, then he better grow up, become a better teammate, and give the Jaguars his best effort in a contract year.
It’s too early to know what the fallout might be from this stormy Sunday practice. Maybe Ramsey’s war of words with the media and the Fowler-Ngakoue spat will all blow over, but it’s imperative for the Jaguars to get the message across to their two impetuous, suspended players that boorish behavior won’t be tolerated.
The truth is the Jaguars have been widely praised for their 2017 turnaround, and the only reason negativity is on their doorstep now is because Ramsey and Fowler brought it there.
They have two choices: be grown-ups and fix the problem or let their egos get the best of them and make matters worse.
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