Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker as blocking Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Erik Walden on a run play during Thursday Night Football a few days ago. Walden ripped Walker's helmet off by the facemask, to which Walker responded by getting up in Walden's face. Walden then lunged the crown of his helmet squarely into Walker's unmasked face, prompting Walker to throw a punch. The result of the play was a personal foul call on Walden, though to the dismay of many, the Colts' linebacker was not ejected.
Take a look at the play here:
That quote is from Friday, so when Walden said that "it could have cost my team bigger than it did," he was unaware of the full consequences of his actions. Jay Glazer of FOX Sports has reported that the NFL will suspend Walden one game for his headbutt, which will cost the Colts a little more than a personal foul penalty.
Walden has been solid against the run this season, and the Colts' defense - which ranks 26th in yards allowed per carry - can ill afford to lose any player who helps in that area. Rookie Bjoern Werner will step into a starting role in the absence of Walden. Since struggling in his NFL debut, Werner has been solid when healthy, particularly in the run game. If Werner can hold up in a full-time role the same way that he has held up in limited snaps, the Colts should not see much of a drop off against the run. As for the pass rush, Werner has pressured quarterbacks on 10.1% of his pass rush attempts, compared to 12.1% for Walden - not a huge drop off there, but it's worth noting.
Walden's foolish headbutt is unlikely to cost the Colts too much, especially since he is missing a game against an Arizona Cardinals team that averages just 3.6 yards per carry. But remember, kids - before you go headbutting an opponent on the football field, make sure he has his helmet on.
For those of you wondering why Walker will not be punished for his retaliatory punch, it's likely because the league felt that Walden instigated the altercation by clearly crossing the line. Walker openly admitted that he threw the punch, and did not seem to regret it one bit. "I threw a punch at him," Walker said. "I'm not going to lie about that, it's on film, but that was just a reaction. You headbutt me in the face because I am beating you? Come on. I whooped on him the whole game, and I'm going to whoop on him again in two weeks." For what it's worth, Walker did have his best run blocking game of the season against the Colts, grading out positively according to Pro Football Focus.
As Walker said, these two teams will play again in Week 13 when Walden returns from his suspension.