The start of the NFL season opener in Denver between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos was delayed Thursday night because of lightning. The pregame festivities began on time, but the kickoff was pushed back 15 minutes to 8:55 p.m. EDT. An announcement was made in the stadium that any fans who wanted to seek shelter could go to the concourses. Very few of them left their seats. There was no rain at the stadium, although the sky was overcast. The national anthem and player introductions were delayed.
Broncos tight end Julius Thomas was expected to start in the season opener despite revelations of his arrest last week. Thomas had been stopped for speeding on Aug. 28 and was then arrested for failing to appear in court for a traffic citation earlier this year, Arapahoe County sheriff’s Capt. Glenn Thompson said. Thomas is scheduled in court on Sept. 12.
Records show that Thomas missed a March 21 court hearing for a citation issued Jan. 25 for failing to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle.
Cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Quentin Jammer were among Denver’s inactives for the opener. Bailey has a sprained left foot and hasn’t practiced since getting hurt Aug. 17 in a preseason game at Seattle. He was to be replaced by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with Chris Harris sliding over from nickel back to right cornerback.
The Ravens’ inactives included defensive tackle Arthur Jones (illness) and Brandon Williams (toe). Also out for Baltimore are receivers Aaron Mellette and Deonte Thompson, offensive linemen Jah Reid and Ryan Jensen and linebacker John Simon.
The first punch thrown at Riley Cooper since it became known he made a racial remark didn’t come from an opponent, but a teammate. Cooper, who left the Philadelphia Eagles for three days in training camp after a video of him using the N-word surfaced on the Internet, found himself in a scuffle with defensive back Cary Williams at practice Thursday. Cooper, a wide receiver, said afterward it had nothing to do with his comment at a Kenny Chesney concert in June. And Williams declined to speak to reporters.
“Both being super competitive, going for the ball,” Cooper said. “We had a tangle-up at the ball, we both went to the ground. There was a lot of contact at the top of the route.
“It was nothing.”
Williams was covering Cooper, broke up a pass from quarterback Michael Vick and both players went down. Cooper stood up and shoved Williams first. Williams responded with a couple of punches and had to be forcibly restrained by teammates, including Vick.
Cooper walked away after cornerback Brandon Boykin stepped in to separate the players. Williams then took his helmet off, screamed at Cooper and started walking toward him before Vick stepped in and grabbed the fiery cornerback by his jersey. Williams yelled at Vick, and an assistant coach led the quarterback away.
“Our maturity level has to be on a whole different plane,” Vick said. “Regardless of who the catalyst was for the whole fight, that doesn’t matter. We have to be men. We’re not guys who are out on the street, fighting one another. We’re teammates. It’s game week. We don’t have time for that. I don’t.
“It’s a distraction.”
The Eagles open their season against the Redskins in Washington on Monday night.
DeSean Jackson eventually calmed Williams, who is no stranger to fights. Williams found himself in a scuffle against an opponent when the Eagles and the New England Patriots held a joint scrimmage last month and was pulled from practice. He fought Jackson during a game last year when he played for Baltimore. He also shoved a referee during the Ravens’ win over San Francisco in the Super Bowl.
Ed Reed practices
Safety Ed Reed could play when the Texans open the season at San Diego on Monday night after returning to practice this week as he recovers from hip surgery.
“I don’t want to say it can’t happen because there’s been such good progress,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “So we’ll see day to day.”
Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowler, was taken off the physically unable to perform list on Saturday and returned on a limited basis. He has been recovering from April surgery to repair a partially torn labrum.