Gang warfare, in the football sense, was on full display in Baltimore on Sunday. From a pregame dustup to an overtime finish to a postgame wave-off, there was drama throughout.
First, the visiting Tennessee Titans dared to hold a meeting at the 50-yard line – on the Baltimore Ravens logo – before the game. Yes, clearly a violation of the unwritten “our turf” rules.
The meeting was held while Baltimore’s players were still in the locker room, but Ravens head coach John Harbaugh confronted the perpetrators, including a face-to-face with Titans defensive back Malcolm Butler.
After Harbaugh and Butler were separated, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel went toe to toe with Harbaugh, exchanging words.
The Titans won the game with a Derrick Henry touchdown run in overtime.
Vrabel and Harbaugh were near midfield for what would traditionally have been a handshake, but Harbaugh appeared to wave off Vrabel.
No big deal? Though there clearly seems to be lingering bad blood, Vrabel explained during the postgame news conference.
“I went to celebrate with Derrick and the team to congratulate him, and then I ran back and shook (Harbaugh’s) hand and asked what the issue was before the game and he said there wasn’t an issue. So I went to celebrate with my football team.”
Asked whether Harbaugh had declined a postgame handshake, Vrabel said, “No, absolutely not. A lot of respect for John, we shook hands.”
Harbaugh also took the high road.
“After the game, there wasn’t an issue,” Harbaugh said. “Coach Vrabel was down there celebrating in the end zone, and then he came back around and shook hands. (The pregame activity) is irrelevant.”
So, for fans of “West Side Story,” it turned out to be Ravens-Titans and not the Jets and Sharks.