Sunday, October 2, 2022

Packers accused of foul play after Bucs’ WR Evans was suspended

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The NFL can be a mysterious and scandalous place, producing improbable stories and even more improbable outcomes, but a conspiracy theory currently swirling around the father of a Green Bay Packers lineman is one of the all-timers.

The fantastic story began last Sunday, September 18th, during a game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints. Bucs quarterback Tom Brady was frustrated with his offense’s inability to move the ball against a division rival who, at least in the regular season, was Tampa Bay’s number one foe during his tenure.

Brady displayed an unrelenting dissatisfaction after a broken game in the second half that was immediately offended by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans watched the altercation from the sidelines, prompting him to charge back onto the field and smack Lattimore with both hands, knocking down his longtime and hated rival.

A scrum ensued between both teams and when the dust settled the umpires had both Evans and Lattimore ejected for their respective roles in the unsanctioned violence. On Monday, the league office suspended Evans for one game for his conduct, according to NFL Network — a penalty upheld after an appeal Tuesday.

The conspiracy theory now circulating revolves around the official who issued Evans’ initial suspension, Jon Runyan Sr., who serves as the NFL’s vice president of rules and policy administration. The elder Runyan happens to be the father of Packers offensive guard Jon Runyan Jr., while Green Bay happens to be the team the Bucs will play Sunday with their Pro Bowl wide receiver.

Runyan Jr. was asked by media sources on Wednesday about a conspiracy theory that his father made an unfair decision in Evans’ case at the behest of the Packers organization to give the team an unfair competitive advantage.

“He was just doing his job,” Runyan Jr. said, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. “He’s been doing this job for over half a decade now. We happen to be playing the Buccaneers this week. Everyone tries to make it a conspiracy theory, which it isn’t.”

“[It was a] Misjudgment on the field,” Runyan Jr. continued, this time discussing Evans’ behavior towards the Saints. “Sometimes that happens. There’s a whole conspiracy theory out there, and it’s not true. Here’s how it works. You can’t run 15 meters and try to poach someone when the play is over. It’s funny how things work out sometimes though.”

While the notion of an NFL vice president playing petty politics to affect a Week 3 matchup borders on the ridiculous, the fact that Evan’s absence will significantly impact the Bucs on offense cannot be ignored.

Tampa Bay is 2-0 but has only 39 points in those two wins this season. Brady was a far cry from his normal self, throwing for just 402 yards, two touchdowns and one interception with a 59 percent completion rate, according to ESPN.

Evans has been one of the few options to work for Brady so far in 2022, and has eight catches for 132 yards and one touchdown in two contests.

The Packers and two-time reigning MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers shared similar issues, scraping a 1-1 record despite an unusual inability to move the ball through the air.

Rodgers has rushed for just 459 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 69.5 percent passing, according to the Pro Football Reference, while Green Bay’s offense has only 34 points in two games.

Both the Packers’ defense and the Bucs’ defense make Sunday a slugfest of sorts. However, with limited weapons and unconvincing track records this season, whoever performs better between Rodgers and Brady will likely lead their team to victory.

Both the Packers’ defense and the Bucs’ defense make Sunday a slugfest of sorts. However, with limited weapons and unconvincing track records this season, whoever performs better between Rodgers and Brady will likely lead their team to victory.

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