JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Arizona Cardinals' Andre Ellington didn't know he had lost a large chunk of his hair until the play was over.
"I just remember running the play," Ellington said after Arizona's 27-14 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Late in the third quarter, Ellington got a handoff, rushed into the crowded line of scrimmage, and felt a tug of his long dreadlocks from above as he was tackled. "I just couldn't do nothing about it," he said.
Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin had grabbed hold of Ellington's hair and emerged from the pile with his arm outstretched and black strands dangling from his fist. He raised the hair like a trophy, then flung it to the turf. Hair is considered part of the NFL uniform, so Babin was not penalized.
"If you wanna have big hair …" one teammate joked in the Jaguars' locker room after the game.
"Choices, decisions, consequences," Babin replied.
He also said this has happened before, mentioning he played when horse-collar tackles were legal.
"When you play hard and fast, it's anything you can grab," Babin said. "I get pretty emotional and passionate out there. I get to be someone else for three hours."
Ellington said it didn't hurt, and credited "adrenaline."
He shrugged when asked about the hair toss.
"It's a little taunt but what can you say?" he said. "Hair is an accessory. It was nothing serious. We got the win."
He also said there was no long-term damage.
A Cardinals official tweeted that the hair was returned to Ellington in a plastic bag.
Hair loss update on Andre Ellington: the lost locks were not extensions but indeed real hair 5 yrs in the making; return is questionable— MarkDalton (@CardsMarkD) November 17, 2013
"I got it fixed," he said.