Bottom line is Mason should not have gotten in Flacco's face

Let's agree that whatever took place on the sideline between Derrick Mason and Joe Flacco on Sunday was not exactly Tyson vs. Holyfield at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Nobody swung at anybody. Nobody head-butted anybody. Nobody bit off a chunk of anyone's ear.

But let's be clear about this, too: Mason can't be going off on his quarterback the way he did, either.

OK, we don't have all the details of what transpired between the two in the second half of the Ravens' 37-13 win over the Carolina Panthers.

And we'll probably find out more today at the Ravens' weekly media session at the Castle in Owings Mills, assuming the players haven't been told to clam up about it.

But we do know a few things about the incident.

We know Mason came off the field fuming about something. (Word was he was livid about Flacco being late with a pass targeted for him.)

We know he confronted Flacco. We know there was some shouting. We know there was some cursing.

We know the two had to be separated by what seemed to be half the Ravens on the sideline.

And we know the whole thing was serious enough that John Harbaugh talked to Mason about it after the game. And he talked to Flacco about it during the game, after the game and again Monday.

"It wasn't anything serious that we had to work through," Harbaugh said at his news conference Monday. "Just make sure we were on the same page and Joe was on the same page."

OK, fine. Harbaugh played down the whole incident the way you knew he would, the way just about any NFL coach would. They all want to keep these things "in-house." And he said he wasn't "too concerned" about the dust-up between his quarterback and his veteran wide receiver.

But I'm not sure I buy that.

Because here's the other thing we're hearing about the incident: Mason might have grabbed Flacco by the face mask during his tirade.

And if that's true, it's a major no-no.

Sure, players blow up at their teammates and coaches all the time on the sidelines of NFL games.

These are big, tough guys with massive egos. And for three hours every Sunday they work in a highly pressurized environment where, when a disagreement arises, their first instinct isn't to say: "Let's table this for further discussion, shall we?"

But I'm sorry, you can't be grabbing your quarterback by the face mask.

You can't be getting in his face in the heat of a game because you don't think a pass got to you soon enough.

That's just showing up your quarterback. And that's hurting your whole team.

"You never want to let your emotions get control of your performance, that's the main thing," Harbaugh said, speaking in general terms of the confrontation. "And you want to treat your teammates with respect. I don't think that line has been crossed."

Me, I'd respectfully disagree with that.

If Mason grabbed Flacco's face mask, if he's going thermonuclear with his quarterback on the sideline because a pass wasn't thrown to his satisfaction, he crossed the line.

Look, I love Derrick Mason. I love his toughness, his intellect, his passion for the game after 14 years in the NFL. If you're in the media, he's everybody's go-to guy in the locker room for great quotes and analysis.

And there's also this: Nobody on the Ravens talks up Joe Flacco more than Mason does. Every column I've ever done on Flacco, I go to Mason first.

But we've seen Mason lose his temper before and it hurt this team. And apparently this time when he went off, Flacco, laid-back as he can be, wasn't turning the other cheek.

A reporter asked Harbaugh on Monday to explain what he sees in Flacco that would put him in the middle of a heated sideline exchange.

Harbaugh smiled. "I would say, hey, get in a pickup basketball game with him sometime," the coach said. "Cover the guy one time and you'll probably see. You'll probably get an elbow right in the chops. Joe is a very competitive guy.

"Because he's a calm guy … I mean, Joe Montana, I think, was a pretty calm guy if you look back at some of his press conferences. And who was a more fiery competitor? You can't judge a book by its cover. And Joe, he's got a fire burning inside and you see it in the way he plays and the way he practices."

The bottom line is this: You don't show up your quarterback in the middle of a game.

It never helps the situation.

It sure didn't help Sunday.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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