Browns wide receiver Greg Little accused Baltimore Ravens strong safety James Ihedigbo of choking him Sunday during Cleveland’s 24-18 win and explained that he pulled off Ihedigbo’s helmet in self-defense. Little then threw the helmet and received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 1:16 left in the first quarter.
Screen shots of the television broadcast on CBS show Ihedigbo with his hands around Little’s neck. A still frame of the melee circulated online Monday.
“The ref was saying, ‘Let go of his face mask,’ but he was choking me, so I'm not [going to let go],” Little said today, speaking to reporters for the first time since the incident. “There's a thin line between football and just morals, and I'm not going to let a guy spit in my face, choke me, [disrespect] my family or anything like that. It's just how it is.
“I was pushing him off me and [his helmet] popped off. The refs [were] pulling him off me. He's still trying to choke me. I'm pushing him off, and his helmet popped off.'”
Ihedigbo, though, denied choking Little today when he spoke to Baltimore reporters.
"I would never personally cross the lines or play outside rules," Ihedigbo said, according to the Baltimore Sun. "I had my hand on his chest.
"I'm not a dirty player by any means. He's saying what took place that didn't take place. The refs would have seen it."
Little said he doesn’t regret yanking off Ihedigbo’s helmet and flinging it.
"None,'' Little said. "If you're going to take the game of football to where he took it to, then I'll meet you there.”
While justifying his actions, Little also alluded to an altercation between Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor and Ravens running back Ray Rice during the first meeting of the season between the two AFC North rivals Sept. 15.
“Ask Phil [Taylor] if Ray Rice spit in his face again," Little said. "What would he do? Is he going to pat him on the back?”
Little said he hasn’t received any notice from the NFL about a potential fine. But he added that if he is fined, Ihedigbo should be fined, too. The league reviews all plays each week and confirms fines to the media on Fridays.
The altercation between Little and Ihedigbo started at the end of a running play late in the first quarter. As Little blocked Ihedigbo, the safety put his right hand on the back of Little’s helmet and pushed his head down. Little shoved back, and Ihedigbo and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee pushed Little, causing him to fall onto his backside.
Ihedigbo then lunged toward Little, placed his hands on Little’s collarbone and neck area and drove him to the ground. Little yanked off Ihedigbo’s helmet as other players separated the two. Little emerged from the pile with Ihedigbo’s helmet and flung it.
Little later drew a taunting penalty against Ihedigbo with 11:10 left in the second quarter. As Ihedigbo drove Little out of bounds after he caught a pass on a crossing route, Little jabbed at Ihedigbo with his right hand. Ihedigbo shoved Little, and Little gestured at Ihedigbo to “come here,” prompting an official to throw a flag.
The penalties were blemishes on an otherwise stellar performance. Little tallied a career-high seven catches for 122 yards.
"Greg knows that he shouldn’t have thrown the helmet," Browns cornerback Joe Haden said. "But at the same time, as a man, you don’t want to be disrespected."
After the game, Ihedigbo mocked Little when speaking to reporters.
“He's just trying to be a tough guy,” Ihedigbo said. “Some guys that aren't tough try to prove that they are tough.”
Little countered today.
“He’s far from tough,” Little said. “Believe it.
"I'm pretty sure we'll play again. And if he feels like I'm not tough, he knows where to find me."