NFL fans were left fuming on Sunday when Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal was penalised after suffering a devastating injury.
Neal went down with a left Achilles injury in Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, and the referees piled onto his misery by flagging him on the play.
Facing first and goal from the Falcons’ 9 yard line, Neal crumpled to the ground with a non-contact injury and was in such visible pain that he removed his helmet while the play was finishing up.
The refs deemed that to be unsportsmanlike contact, hitting him with a five-yard penalty and giving the Colts an automatic first down.
Two plays later, Indy scored a touchdown to go up 20-3.
Worse yet, Neal likely faces a fine for taking off his helmet.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs was slapped with a $10,527 fine on Saturday for removing his helmet and taunting the crowd last week.
Fans were left fuming that Neal was flagged after suffering an injury.
Looks Heartbreaking for Keanu Neal and for them to flag him is quite disgusting.— First & Framerates Podcast 🎮 🎙 (@VFBaller) September 22, 2019
Some common sense goes a long way.
NFL refs are just disgusting, man. Keanu Neal takes his off helmet AFTER the play is over knowing he probably just tore his ACL for the second time in a year, crying on the field in pain and frustration, and they FLAG him for unsportsmanlike conduct. Just disgraceful.— Shawn Butler (@iBeButlerr) September 22, 2019
Keanu Neal being flagged during a terrible injury might be the dumbest football thing I've ever seen— Joe Burrow Heisman campaign (@thejasonkirk) September 22, 2019
The unsportsmanlike conduct call on an injured Keanu Neal was a disgrace https://t.co/nHj5wuByAW— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) September 22, 2019
Feel bad for #Falcons Safety Keanu Neal, he suffered what could be a season ending injury [was carted off the field] and in addition the refs gave him a penalty for taking his helmet off after his injury. pic.twitter.com/5sKIUbnqdP— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 22, 2019
Keanu Neal. Wow.— John Ellis (@OnePantherPlace) September 22, 2019
AND....they gave him a penalty for throwing his helmet after getting hurt. I’m not sure if I agree with that, and I’m not a huge Falcons fan or anything. What a shitty job by the refs. Pick up the flag there.
I seriously feel bad for that kid. pic.twitter.com/gTkyzPgHH7
Keanu Neal suffers a very serious injury and reacts emotionally, as anyone would. Yet they penalize him for throwing his helmet. Ridiculous. Not the spirit of that rule at all.— Travis Haney (@travhaney) September 22, 2019
Neal’s season likely over
Neal had to be carted off after the play, and the broadcast confirmed that the injury was to his Achilles tendon, which ruled him out for the game and could cost him the rest of the season.
That would be particularly devastating considering he missed 15 games last season after tearing his ACL in the opening contest.
After the game, NFL Network cited a source who said the team believes Neal indeed tore his Achilles, with an MRI still to come.
“The man just keeps fighting,” Falcons safety Ricardo Allen, who missed most of last season with a torn Achilles, said after the game.
“I don’t really know the full thing, but in his eyes it didn’t look good. he understands the grind. He was with me last year, and I was with him last year. We understand what it takes to get back.”
Ricardo Allen emotional about teammate Keanu Neal. pic.twitter.com/rOtQqmpnct— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) September 22, 2019
A 2016 first-rounder, Neal was a Pro Bowler in 2017 when he finished second on the team with 113 tackles while adding an interception, three forced fumbles and two recoveries.
With Ben Weinrib - Yahoo Sports