DENVER -- Aqib Talib fought the law, and won a measure of redemption.
NFL appeals officer James Thrash heard Talib's appeal Tuesday, and reduced the All-Pro cornerback's suspension to one game. He will sit out Sunday against Miami and return the following week when the Broncos host the New York Jets. Oakland receiver Michael Crabtree's suspension had his suspension reduced to one game as well.
Talib forfeits a weeks' salary — roughly $650,000. This represents his second suspension in Denver, as the league disciplined him for one game in 2015 for poking the eye of Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen.
Talib struck a conciliatory tone Monday, expressing disappointment for not defusing the situation after the initial fight with Crabtree on the sideline. Teammates supported Talib, believing he had every right to defend himself after Crabtree slugged Chris Harris Jr. then engaged in a battle with Talib on the ensuing play.
However, Talib ran afoul of the league by ripping off Crabtree's chain for a second straight season -- which reflected how this incident was not viewed in a vacuum -- throwing the receiver's helmet and punching Crabtree in the end zone after the melee had settled down.
"I came out there to play football on Sunday and I don’t really know what he came out there to do. I came out there to play football and he came out here on this extra stuff, so one thing led to another. It’s unfortunate and I wish it didn’t happen," Talib said Monday. “I hope the league sees basically how it started and sees I didn’t come out there to fight and wrestle with him.”
The league, which is dealing with declining ratings, budged. No explanation was yet given, but the fact that both players missed all but two drives on Sunday likely figured into the ruling.
The optics were bad -- a fracas spanning more than 50 yards that endangered officials and those on the sidelines. Broncos general manager John Elway defended his team and Talib's actions. Elway and coach Vance Joseph participated in Talib's appeal, sitting in the room with Talib and offering support.
"We were in there (in hearing), and from our point of view we thought Crabtree was the aggressor. He was the one who started it," Elway said on 760 AM. "Obviously, it's not something we want in our game, and I understand from the league's perspective that they don't want it. I thought that for Aqib and our team, we did a good job of handling a situation that could have been out of control. I thought Aqib did everything that he could possibly do to stay out of the fracas, and Crabtree kept coming after him."
Broncos defensive tackle Zach Kerr echoed those comments. He blamed Crabtree for the entire incident.
"He didn't want to play football. He came out ready to fight," Kerr told Denver7. "We came out there ready to win a game. If we really wanted to we could have mopped him up on our sideline. But we don't have time for that BS."
Talib's actions led directly to the Broncos' seventh-straight loss. With Talib ejected on the third series, Bradley Roby shifted to his spot, forcing rookie Brendan Langley into nickel coverage. Langley struggled, beaten multiple times, including for a touchdown and on Oakland's game-clinching third down conversion. The Broncos will likely have to add a cornerback this week, possibly practice squader Marcus Rios.
"I am not saying that Langley can’t handle it," Talib said, "but a more experienced player in that situation might have put us in a better situation."