by Alex Poletti
Keanu Neal’s 2019 season was tragically cut short on Sunday after he suffered a painful, non-contact Achilles injury during the second quarter of the 24-27 loss against the Indianapolis Colts. As if things couldn’t get any worse, the refs hit the 2016 first rounder with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“I know that the decision caught a lot of flack from fans on social media,” head referee Alex Kemp says. “But when you think about the play, it makes sense. He’s the best defender on that team. For him to get injured in week three and leave his team without a good safety? That’s not a very sportsmanlike thing to do.”
This is the second tough break for Neal in as many seasons, as he fell victim to an ACL tear in week one of last season’s campaign. The falcons ended that season 7-9.
“It would be one think if he had just gotten injured the one time,” Kemp continues, “but this guy is a repeat offender. This is two years in a row that he has fucked over his team by getting gruesomely injured. We can’t let that stand.”
Though there isn’t any official time table for the 24-year-old’s return, it can take four to six months until full activity is allowed, and it takes even longer for an NFL athlete to get ready for competitive play. Although there is a fair amount of sympathy circulating the league, some sports stars are taking a tougher approach.
“You’ve gotta be more careful about this sort of stuff,” Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant says. “Suffering a season-ending Achilles injury is a reasonable reaction to a play, but you have to try and keep that stuff on your own time. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’ve grown up with a style of play that facilitates Achilles injuries. But you’ve gotta hold back, at least wait until the playoffs to end your season. It’s just the right thing to do as a teammate.”
The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty resulted in a five-yard gain for Indianapolis and an automatic first down. The drive resulted in a touchdown, helping solidify the victory for Jacoby Brissett and the Colts. The ref admits that if the foul wasn’t so flagrant, he wouldn’t have made the call.
“It was so excessive, that was the real problem,” Kemp explains. “I can tolerate a minor Achilles injury, but this was a full-on tear. Not to mention, he was crying in agonizing pain. In the end, it’s just going to cost the team a lot of money for that surgery. It’s a disservice to the team, and I have to call that foul.”