DENVER – There hasn’t been this kind of bad blood between the Raiders and Broncos since Al Davis decided not to pay Mike Shanahan all those years ago.
Las Vegas defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil shoulder checked Noah Fant just before halftime Sunday when the Denver tight end was driven out of bounds on the Raiders sideline by safety Lamarcus Joyner following a 9-yard catch.
As he headed out of bounds near midfield, cornerback Keisein Nixon caused Fant to stumble.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden stepped out of Fant’s way, but O’Neil squared up, stiffened his right shoulder and leaned into Fant as the tight end stumbled past, connecting on Fant’s right arm and shoulder and spinning the 6-foot-4, 249-pound second-year pro who took immediate exception.
Fant shoveled the football at O’Neil (he missed). Raiders backup cornerback Daryl Worley playfully tapped Fant’s helmet just before Fant confronted O’Neil, shoving him off-balance on his right shoulder.
As that’s happening, side judge John Jenkins quickly grabbed Fant around the waist and escorted him back onto the field while O’Neil and Gruden said something to Fant.
Jenkins didn’t throw a flag on either party.
“That’s never happened to me before,” Fant said Monday. “I thought that was very unprofessional. I’m not sure what coach does that. I’ve heard a plethora of things like, ‘He was trying to catch you.’ ... He went out of his way to shoulder me and it totally turned me.”
Fant said his only regret was missing O’Neil with the football he flung at him.
“I feel like I (re)acted accordingly,” Fant said. “I don’t believe that I should have had some sort of maturity and said, ‘I’m going to be the bigger man.’ As I’m coming off the field, I should never be shoulder checked by a coach, if that, even a player.”
Asked about the incident Monday, Gruden said: “I just stay away from Noah Fant. He’s a big guy. I try not to make the other team mad. But we don’t like to have any confrontations with players, our players, their players, any players. But sometimes in the heat of the battle, things get said or there’s some misunderstanding on the sidelines.
“Guys get bumped into and they take it personally. There’s a lot of emotion out there. I think that’s what you saw yesterday. But I’m confident Jim O’Neil and Noah Fant are pros.”
Fant didn’t think there was any misunderstanding, just poor sportsmanship.
Asked if he wanted the NFL to discipline O’Neil, Fant said, “I know if I would have really shoved him or done something really harmful to him, then I would have gotten fined, but that’s up to the league to decide.”
As any bettor knows, sometimes the smallest of plays can make a big-dollar difference in an NFL game. Week 17 featured plenty of money grabs, not by bettors but by some of the players themselves.
Emmanuel Sanders caught nine passes for 63 yards and a touchdown in New Orleans’ 33-7 win against Carolina, and his eighth reception, a 9-yarder over the middle, was his 60th of the season, triggering a $500,000 bonus in his contract.
Drew Brees acknowledged afterward that he was trying to get Sanders to the magic mark, “so down the stretch, you’re just trying to feed him.”
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson said he changed a play call with 22 seconds left in Seattle’s 26-23 win over the 49ers to get David Moore a reception before his team lined up in victory formation.
Moore’s 5-yard grab was his only catch of the day but 35th of the season, triggering a $100,000 bonus.
And in Tampa, Bucs receiver Antonio Brown went into the game against Atlanta needing nine catches to reach 45 and trigger a $250,000 bonus. Tom Brady threw to him 14 times. Brown caught 11 of them for 138 yards and two TDs in a 44-27 victory.
AP Pro Football Writers Rob Maaddi and Josh Dubow and AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed.