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NFL investigating spitting claim by Dolphins' Crowder

The NFL is investigating a complaint by the Miami Dolphins that Baltimore Ravens fullback Le'Ron McClain spat in the face of linebacker Channing Crowder, according to NFL Network's Jason La Canfora.

McClain denied spitting intentionally, and Ravens coach John Harbaugh has absolved his player of any wrongdoing. But a video replay from WFOR-TV in Miami appeared to confirm the incident, which Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said he has verified.

"I have enough evidence," Sparano said. "It's upsetting to me."

Crowder didn't talk to reporters Monday, one day after a disappointing 26-10 loss at Baltimore dropped the inconsistent Dolphins to 4-4. McClain conceded saliva flew, but only accidentally.

"He said stuff to me I didn't want to hear. I said stuff he didn't want to hear," McClain said. "Spit came out of my mouth when I said something to the dude, and that was it. It wasn't on purpose. I'm not that kind of player."

The Dolphins weren't buying that explanation. Linebacker Karlos Dansby said McClain, a Pro Bowl fullback, should be suspended for the rest of the season.

"As a man, you spit in somebody's face, you crossed the line," Dansby said. "Where I'm from, that'll get you killed, straight up. That's around the world, period."

Crowder is widely considered one of the league's foremost trash-talkers, so it was no surprise to see him and McClain facemask to facemask trading taunts during a timeout, with an official trying to separate them.

The video shows the conversation ending when McClain rears his head back before thrusting it forward.

"That's just me talking," McClain said. "You can't see spit coming out of my mouth or anything."

Crowder then waves his left hand in front of his face, as if trying to intercept the spittle, before the players are separated.

Harbaugh found McClain innocent.

"I talked to Le'Ron," Harbaugh said. "I've seen the videotape of it. It didn't happen. I don't believe for one second it happened."

That's for the league to decide, Sparano said.

"There are a lot of things that go on in this game from a trash-talking standpoint," Sparano said. "I'm standing there on the sideline yesterday, and I had a player talk trash to me from the other team, and I didn't say one word to the guy. That being said, that's part of the game. I get it. Whatever floats your boat. I don't think it's part of the game, but to some of them, that's what gets them going.

"But this whole deal here about spitting in somebody's face -- nowhere in this game do I see any place for that."

After the game, Crowder was so upset he mixed up his historical figures, complaining the officials who missed the spit had eyesight comparable to Stevie Wonder and Anne Frank. When reporters confused by the reference to Frank further queried Crowder, it became clear he meant Helen Keller instead.

"Is that the blind girl?" Crowder said. "Helen Keller? I don't know. ... I'm mad right now. I'm not as swift as I usually am."

None of Crowder's teammates saw the incident, either. Dansby quickly became aware of it and said his linebacking partner deserves credit for his restrained response.

"He had to weigh his options," Dansby said. "He asked me on the sideline, Should I go whup him?' I'm like,Yeah, go whup him.' Then I was like, 'Man, I need you. If you do it, you're going to hurt your team.' So he had to pull back."

Ironically, in the days leading up to the game, Crowder praised McClain as one of the league's best fullbacks. But Crowder also called Ravens receiver Derrick Mason old, and after the game, Mason fired back at Crowder.

"He was getting knocked down, getting pushed out of the way," Mason said. "The guy is horrible."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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