Ravens coach John Harbaugh on Monday vehemently denied that right guard Marshal Yanda spat on Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict during Sunday's game, though he acknowledged that he hadn’t seen footage of the incident.
Video from CBS' broadcast of the Ravens win shows Yanda standing over Burfict after a minor scuffle among several players early in the fourth quarter. A wad of spit appears to fall from Yanda's mouth, after which he immediately raises his left hand near his helmet.
At his weekly news conference, Harbaugh bristled at a question about the incident.
“Are you really, seriously asking that question?” Harbaugh said. “I mean, here's my point on that. It's like, this guy's been playing for how many years? Eleven years. … Have you ever, from whoever wrote the article that makes the insinuation [that Yanda spat at Burfict], have you ever heard Marshal Yanda's character being attacked or him doing something along those lines ever in his whole career? But now, all of a sudden, we're going to say, 'Oh, I know Marshal Yanda spit at somebody, at a person?’ Really? Come on. No way. There's no way.”
Harbaugh, who said he hadn't seen video of Yanda's alleged spitting, asserted that earlier in the scrum of players, Yanda had his arm "stomped on" by Burfict, one of the NFL’s most controversial players.
"I'm not going to stand up here and say 55 [Burfict] did it on purpose, because I'm not going to point the bony finger of blame and I don't know what somebody's intentions are,” Harbaugh said. “So for all those quote-unquote journalists out there that think that they somehow inherited the position to judge another man's character when they don't know his intention, we don't give that any consideration whatsoever. None. It's not worth it. Kind of an indication of where our society is going right now.”
Yanda has long had a reputation as an upstanding player. Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said before the teams' joint practice in August that he had "the ultimate respect" for the six-time Pro Bowl selection.
New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson, who played with the Ravens from 2016 to 2017, also came to Yanda’s defense, taking issue with a ProFootballTalk article that characterized the incident as a “dirty play.”
“Spit snot and mucus comes out of player’s mouths nose and falls from face makes all the time,” he wrote on Twitter. Yanda’s “left hand was trying to remove it. Unless you’ve heard from Marshall [sic] or other players that’s a bold assertion.”
Yanda could face NFL punishment for the incident. Among the most serious transgressors are former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens, who was fined $35,000 in 2006 for spitting on Atlanta's DeAngelo Hall, and former Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who was ejected from a 2006 playoff game for spitting at Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman.