Nick Collins apologized.
He didn’t have to.
Following Monday’s bitter loss at Chicago, a Milwaukee TV camera caught Collins yelling at a fan and then chucking his mouthguard at him as he walked up the tunnel toward the locker room.
Collins has a history of being an upstanding and forthright member of the team. There’s little reason to doubt that the fan spit on him and used a racial slur.
While you can make the argument that Collins’ reaction was just the latest instance of lacking discipline on a team that had just committed a franchise-record 18 penalties, that’s ignoring one simple fact that somehow gets forgotten: These are humans, not robots.
Put yourself in Collins’ shoes. He and his teammates had just poured a week’s worth of energy into a big rivalry game. For three hours, he played his heart out. He played through a knee sprain suffered in the first quarter and had the game-saving interception taken away from him in the final moments. Standing at his locker after the game, he was as mentally and physically exhausted as I’ve ever seen a player.
After all of that gets only a crushing defeat, what would you’d expect Collins to do? No, never mind that question. What would you have done?
“I think that each person has to put themselves in the shoes of the individual,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “First and foremost, I think fans sometimes forget we're human. And then some fans think that because they're behind the rail or gate or stadium fence, that that gives them the right to do whatever they want. I'm not really going to talk about what did happen or did not happen. To be honest, I don't really know. But I do know that we are human first, we are people, and we have feelings. I think fans should remember that sometimes."
Nick Collins almost saved the game with this interception.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Images
Veteran receiver Donald Driver helped get Collins up the tunnel during the incident.
“This is a game where we go out here and we try to have fun playing it,” Driver said. “I think the fans are taking it too far when they start talking about you, your family. They don't know your family. And they starting talking about personal things. When it gets personal, (what) do you do? Your mom always teaches you, or your dad teaches you, to turn the other cheek. But sometimes you can't. You get frustrated, especially after you lose a game. And you react. I just think the fans need to be more respectful to what we do.”
Collins appreciated the support from McCarthy and his teammates and hopes he can put the incident behind him soon. He said he wasn’t sure if he hit his intended target.
“I'm a grown man. I'm a big boy. And like I said before, I shouldn't have put myself in that position,” Collins said. “And words can't hurt you. People can. Unfortunately, I got caught up in the hype and the emotion from the game, and once again, I shouldn't have been there.
“I'm a professional. I've got to be a bigger person and keep walking.”
That $100 ticket doesn’t give fans the right to act like an idiot, and any penalty from the NFL, whether it's a fine or suspension, would be almost as idiotic.
Collins missed a chance to take the high road on Monday but he took it on Wednesday. I wonder if that gutless Neanderthal will have the same courtesy.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.