By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns wide receiver Greg Little accused Baltimore Ravens strong safety James Ihedigbo of choking him Sunday, but Ihedigbo denied the claim.
Replays and still frames of CBS’s telecast show Ihedigbo atop Little with his hands on Little’s neck and collarbone area in the first quarter of the Browns’ 24-18 win. But the evidence is inconclusive as to whether choking was involved.
The league reviews all plays each week and confirms fines to the media on Fridays, and in this case, neither Little nor Ihedigbo were fined for any of the shenanigans.
After being pinned down, Little pulled off Ihedigbo’s helmet and threw it, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 1:16 left in the first quarter.
“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 Wednesday, 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.”
Ihedigbo told Baltimore reporters he thinks Little is trying to cover his tracks because he lost his composure and drew penalties.
“I would never personally cross the lines or play outside the rules in any manner,” Ihedigbo said, according to the Baltimore Sun. “You can freeze the clips. I have my hand on his chest. He ripped off my helmet and threw it.
“I guess looking back on him losing his cool and saying what took place that didn't take place. The refs would have seen it. Other players would have seen it. And I would have been punished for the play as well. That didn't take place.”
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 that took place Sept. 15 during the first meeting of the season between the two AFC North rivals.
“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?”
The altercation between Little and Ihedigbo started at the end of a running play. As Little blocked Ihedigbo, Ihedigbo 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 neck and collarbone area and pushed his shoulders to the ground. Little yanked off Ihedigbo’s helmet as other players separated the two 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.
“Guys do that,” Little said. “They talk. They make hand gestures. It wasn’t like I flipped him the bird.”
The penalties were blemishes on an otherwise stellar performance by Little. He tallied a career-high seven catches for 122 yards. Little said coach Rob Chudzinski told him to take into account the position he put the team in by committing the penalties.
‘‘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.
“He's just trying to be a tough guy,” Ihedigbo told reporters. “Some guys that aren't tough try to prove that they are tough.”
Little countered Wednesday.
“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.’’
Browns quarterback Jason Campbell was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance Sunday. He’s the first Browns quarterback to win the award since Derek Anderson was honored for his Week 2 performance in 2007. Campbell is the 20th starting quarterback for the Browns since 1999 and the fourth one during that span to earn the distinction.
“Jason has given us a spark similar to what we got from Brian Hoyer [earlier this season],” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “It was exciting for Jason to be named the AFC Player of the Week because it was well deserved. He put together a great effort.”
Despite suffering bruised ribs in the first quarter, Campbell tied a career high with three touchdown passes and completed 23-of-35 passes (65.7 percent) for 262 yards with no interceptions for a passer rating of 116.6, helping the Browns (4-5) end a three-game losing streak and an 11-game skid against the Ravens heading into a bye week.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Campbell is the first quarterback during the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to tally a passer rating of 100-plus in his first two starts with the Browns. Campbell is 1-1 as a starter this season.
Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant isn’t surprised by Campbell’s success. He and Campbell were teammates in 2011, when Campbell went 3-2 as a starter for the Oakland Raiders before suffering a broken collarbone in Week 6 against the Browns.
“I have been a huge Jason Campbell fan since his last days in Oakland,” Bryant said. “Unfortunately, his time there got cut short because of injury, but he was playing really well for us. He was having some great games. He wasn’t turning the ball over. That’s what you need out of your quarterback. He doesn’t have to go out and have seven touchdowns every week. We don’t need that. We need a quarterback who’s going to manage the game, not put us in difficult situations as a defense. He’s done all that. I really believe in Jason and can’t wait to see how he’s going to finish the season.”
Bryant, wide receiver Davone Bess, fullback Chris Ogbonnaya, inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, defensive end Ahtyba Rubin and left tackle Joe Thomas worked out in the field house under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Brad Roll instead of participating in the final practice this week. The players are off today through Sunday because of the bye. … Running back Willis McGahee, tight ends MarQueis Gray (hamstring) and Keavon Milton and outside linebacker Quentin Groves (ankle) did not practice during the 20-minute portion open to reporters. … When Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata landed on Campbell and bruised the quarterback’s ribs, the play was initially ruled a sack. However, the Elias Sports Bureau changed the play to a run for no gain, meaning Campbell officially took two sacks.