Right at the end of Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct — apparently for something he said to Colts quarterback Matt Ryan. The penalty — which was called after Kansas City linebacker Nick Bolton had sacked Ryan for eight yards, setting up fourth-and-14 — kept Indianapolis on the field with just under five minutes remaining. The Colts’ drive eventually resulted in a game-winning touchdown just 24 seconds before the final gun.
After the game, Jones said he didn't remember exactly what he said to Ryan. The next day, head coach Andy Reid said he didn’t know, either — but that team officials were hoping they’d be able to learn more from the referee’s report on the game — although that report wasn’t going to be sent to the teams involved, but rather to the league office.
Quoting league sources, a Pro Football Talk story published on Tuesday said that referee Shawn Smith’s official report only referred to “disturbing language” that had “no place in professional football.”
So when defensive end Frank Clark stepped to the podium at the Chiefs’ practice facility on Friday afternoon, reporters decided this might be their last chance to learn the truth — from one of Jones’ best friends on the team.
At first, Clark denied knowing anything. He said that when the play was over, he was looking at Ryan. But then he turned away, ran off — and then turned back around to see the flag on the ground. He noted that he could one day be targeted with such a penalty.
“I say a lot of crazy stuff out there,” said Clark. “The refs? They warn me a lot. They haven’t thrown a flag yet. So I pray to God that it doesn’t happen to me.”
At that point, Clark banged on the podium’s wooden surface three times — knocking on wood for effect. He then explained that in the 2022 season, he feels like he’s been on the right track; he doesn’t want to incur the wrath of league officials.
“You know how it is, man,” he said of the situation during Sunday’s game. “Guys get into the emotions of the game. It was one of those close games. We were playing a good quarterback in Matt Ryan. He’s driving down; he’s making all the right plays. It’s a moment of frustration. We’ve all been there.”
Clark said that players need to understand that things are changing.
“It’s 2022 — not 2015,” he remarked. “It’s not the 90s. You can’t run around, calling nobody nothing. You can’t call ‘em the B-word, the A-word, [or] the S-word — you know what I mean? You can barely say ‘hell’ on the field nowadays without the ref telling you you’re wrong.
“You’ve just gotta go out there and play a solid, fundamental, Christian-like game — and protect yourself, too, because there’s still live bullets out there — but yeah, it’s crazy, man. You’ve gotta know the line; you’ve gotta know the limit. This is a billion-dollar industry. We’re professionals. At the end of the day, we have a job to do.”
Clark admitted that he knows where the line is. But he didn’t give any clarification — or acknowledge that Jones knows the same thing. He did, however, flatly state that his friend was never warned before the flag was thrown.
“It was the ref, it was Chris and it was Matt,” said Clark. “That’s all. The moment the [other] ref ran up — and he heard whatever Chris said — he reached for the flag. So there wasn’t a second thought about it. The ref knows what Chris said — and Chris knows and Matt knows.”
Then — sensing an opening — Jones drew laughter from the reporters.
“I’m gonna get with Matt and see.”
“Matty Ice!” he exclaimed.
But reporters just weren’t buying that Jones hasn’t already told Clark what he said to Ryan. So they pressed him again: did he know what Jones said?
“You know,” said Clark, “Chris is my guy. We talk about a lot of things.
“I’m not going to be the one to sit here and say, ‘I know what he said.’ [And] I’m not gonna be the one to sit here and say, ‘I don’t know.’
“But I know one thing for sure: we’ll never know.”
And that’s probably where the matter will stay.