Chris Chase, USA TODAY Sports
Kansas City Chiefs tackle Eric Winston ripped fans for cheering the injury of embattled quarterback Matt Cassel on Sunday, saying it was "disgusting" and the most embarrassing moment of his football life. This came hours after fans paid for a sign to fly overhead Arrowhead Stadium asking for Cassel's benching.
There were cheers in the fourth quarter when a Haloti Ngata hit forced Cassel out of the team's eventual 9-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Those didn't sit will with Winston, who unleashed a powerful diatribe against the cheering fans after the game. We've printed some of the most powerful quotes below:
"When you cheer, when you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don't care who it is, and it just so happened to be Matt Cassel -- it's sickening. It's 100% sickening. I've been in some rough times on some rough teams, I've never been more embarrassed in my life to play football than in that moment right there."
"We are athletes, OK? We are athletes. We are not gladiators. This is not the Roman Coliseum."
"Matt Cassel hasn't done anything to you people, 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?"
"Boo him all you want. 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, 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 lost us a bit when he tried to lump a critical media in with fans who applaud injuries and trying to distance the NFL from the days of gladiators, but overall his tone is pitch-perfect.
Football players can be a sensitive bunch. Sometimes they think that fans are booing them as a father or son or husband, not as a football player. But no one cares what Matt Cassel's mother thinks about the jeers. There's a separation of football and real life, for better or worse.
But when a player goes down with an injury, the sports blinders have to come off. It usually happens, which is why hostile crowds applaud when an injured player on the opposing team gets up and hobbles to the sideline. For those few moments, fans can see men playing a game. Some Chiefs fans forgot that on Sunday. Eric Winston provided a much-needed reminder.