The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be missing Jameis Winston when they face the New York Jets on Sunday due to the quarterback's second shoulder injury of the season. They'll be without the services of Winston's top target, too.
On Monday, the NFL suspended Evans for one game without pay due to a violation of the league's unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness rules. The appeals process concluded on Tuesday and the suspension was upheld. Evans will be reinstated next week after missing the Jets game.
Evans drew the suspension for a hit on New Orleans cornerback Marshon Lattimore, which he described as a misguided attempt to protect Winston during an argument near the Bucs' sideline. Lattimore had shoved Winston after the quarterback had instigated the altercation by tapping Lattimore's helmet.
Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter strongly disapproved of the actions of his two young offensive stars.
"[It was] totally unacceptable behavior, first by Jameis and then by Mike," said Koetter. "Jameis cannot under any circumstances come off the sideline when he's not even playing in the game. Trash-talking is trash-talking, but to go out and tap another player, whatever you want to call it, touch another player at all on the field, that's inexcusable. Then the Saints player responded and then Mike reacted and that's not acceptable either. That's not having your teammate's back, that's just wrong."
Koetter did not see the altercation when it occurred but realized upon viewing the tape that some disciplinary action could possibly be forthcoming.
"If I would have known what I know [now], Mike probably should have been ejected, and maybe Jameis should have been ejected," he said on Monday before the suspension was announced. "I'm not sure how the league looks at that and I'm sure there could be some league action to follow. I talked to the entire team about that today and that cannot happen. That's totally unacceptable."
Evans also quickly realized the error of his ways, admitting after the game that he should not have hit Lattimore in the manner he did. Evans reiterated his motivation to protect his quarterback but said a more appropriate response would have been to move Lattimore away from Winston. On Tuesday, Evans took responsibility for the situation.
"I want to sincerely apologize for my actions during Sunday's game," he said. "I saw my quarterback getting shoved and I let my emotions get the better of me. My response was not appropriate and not a true indication of who I am as a player and a person. I take pride in playing the game the right way and I realize it was unprofessional and hurt my team."
Evans and Winston were the Buccaneers' first-round draft picks in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and they have developed into the heart of the team's offense. Winston is just the eighth quarterback to pass for 10,000 yards in his first 40 games, while Evans is more than halfway to his fourth 1,000-yard receiving season in as many pro years. Of the 60 touchdowns Winston has thrown in his first two-and-a-half season, 18 have gone to Evans.