Indianapolis Colts linebacker Erik Walden has been suspended one game for ripping off the helmet of Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker and subsequently headbutting him in their Week 11 contest.
The league confirmed the suspension on Monday via NFL's Around the League Twitter account:
Fox Sports' Jay Glazer was the first to report Walden's suspension:
Walden's suspension was also upheld on Tuesday (via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com):
Pro Football Talk reveals how much the headbutt will cost Walden:
Walden, in his sixth season out of Middle Tennessee State, took exception to how he was being blocked on a play in the second quarter of Thursday night's game and grabbed Walker's facemask, pulling hard and ripping his helmet off his head. Walker then got in Walden's face, and the pair started jawing back and forth, at which point Walden reared his head back and headbutted Walker. The Titans tight end then appeared to throw a punch in retaliation.
"I threw a punch at him; I'm not going to lie about that. It's on film," Walker said, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. "But that was just a reaction. You head-butt me in the face because I am beating you? C'mon...I whupped on him the whole game, and I'm going to whup on him again in two weeks."
The referees called Walden for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty but did not throw him out of the game. The NFL Network broadcasters and many others were confused why the play didn't result in an ejection. Walden stayed in the rest of the contest and recorded four total tackles, including a critical sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick, as the Colts came from behind to score a 30-27 victory.
"It was a selfish act," Walden said, via Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. "It could have cost my team bigger than I did. I lost my composure. It's something that can't happen. It wasn't really something he did, it was ticky-tack. I can't allow myself to take it that far."
The Colts, already thin in many other areas, will likely use a rotation of players to replace Walden against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12. First-round pick Bjoern Werner is likely to see the biggest increase in reps, but seldom-used veteran Andy Studebaker could also see some defensive snaps.
Walden serves as Indianapolis' left outside linebacker primarily, but he moves around at times. He's compiled 28 tackles and two sacks thus far.
Sunday's game in Arizona will be filled with emotion, as it will be the Colts' first matchup against Bruce Arians since he left Indianapolis. Now the head coach for the Cardinals, Arians served as the interim head coach when Chuck Pagano battled leukemia last season.
Assuming Walden sits out Week 12, he'll be eligible to return for the Colts' second matchup with Tennessee at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 1.
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