The NFL and its security staff are investigating a claim that Pittsburgh Steelers tight end coach James Daniel assaulted a New England Patriots fan on Thursday night.
Daniel was questioned by NFL security and area police after the alleged incident, which occurred during the Steelers’ 28-21 loss to the Patriots. A Pittsburgh spokesman said NFL security had informed the team about the incident and that the team is also investigating the claim. Here’s what you need to know:
1. NFL Security Is Investigating Daniel for an Alleged Assault
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, NFL security is looking into a reported incident between Daniel and a New England Patriots fan during the league’s season opener on Thursday night.
Per league sources, Daniel is being investigated for allegedly assaulting and verbally accosting the fan on the way to the locker room before halftime. A league official confirmed to Schefter that the NFL is “aware of the incident and is looking into it.”
The Steelers also said the team had investigated the incident and President Art Rooney II released a statement:
We have conducted an internal inquiry into the alleged incident involving Assistant Coach James Daniel at the Patriots stadium Thursday night. After interviews with Coach Daniel as well as other personnel who witnessed the alleged encounter, we find no corroboration that Coach Daniel was involved in any physical altercation with a fan. Coach Daniel has worked as an assistant coach for the Steelers for the past 12 seasons. We have a high level of confidence in his character and are confident that any further investigation of this incident will reveal he was not part of any assault or misconduct involving a Patriots fan.
2. The Alleged Incident Occurred Before Halftime of the Steelers-Patriots Game
Witnesses told NFL security that the incident occurred before halftime of the Steelers’ loss on Thursday night as Daniel was on his way back into the locker room.
Schefter reported that Daniel was seen allegedly kicking a Patriots fan in the back of the leg and yelling at the fan in front of several witnesses. When the coach returned to the booth after halftime, he was approached by police and NFL security. Witnesses added that Daniel was seen visibly shouting at the police officer after he was told to control his behavior.
NFL security said that it did not witness the exchange with police.
3. Daniel Joined the Pittsburgh Steelers Staff in 2004
Daniel replaced Ken Whisenhunt as the Steelers tight end coach in 2004 after Whisenhunt was promoted to offensive coordinator. Daniel has had a major impact on the team, particularly while working with Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller.
Miller, working closely with Daniel, has been a Pro Bowl selection and also set team records for single-season receptions, postseason receptions, touchdowns and yards for the tight end position.
4. His First Pro Coaching Job Came as Part of the NFL’s Minority Fellowship Program
After several years at the high school level and a stint at Auburn, Daniel was promoted to his first pro coaching job as part of the NFL’s Minority Fellowship program. He joined the New Orleans Saints staff in 1988 and coached with the Denver Broncos in 1992.
Daniel worked as the tight end coach for the New York Giants from 1993 to 1996 and served in the same capacity for the Atlanta Falcons from 1997 to 2003. While in Atlanta, Daniel worked closely with Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler who led the team in receptions in 2002 and 2003, notching four Pro Bowl selections as well.
Daniel also worked as the Atlanta offensive line coach in 2000.
5. Daniel Played College Football at Alabama State
The Alabama native was a four-year letter winner as an offensive guard at Alabama State University in the early 1970’s. He was a three-year starter on the offensive line.
After graduating from college, Daniel focused on his coaching career, securing his first job on the sidelines as the offensive line coach at Enterprise High School. He worked at the high school level from 1974 – 1980, helping several of his linemen earn college scholarships.
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