Image Credit: UAA
Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain announced Wednesday that junior cornerback Jalen Tabor and redshirt sophomore tight end C’yontai Lewis have been suspended “immediately” from team activities, including fall practice.
Both players will miss Florida’s season opener on Sept. 3 against UMass, which was detailed in McElwain’s statement below.
Both C’yontai and Jalen will not be involved with the team or practice due to behavior that is not acceptable. By no means are these bad guys and yet consequences have been handed down. We will not look the other way when it comes to breaking of team policies. I want to echo what I said earlier, these are both fine young men who will learn and be stronger from their actions. They will also be suspended for the first game. There are life lessons in everything we do. We will be better because of it and no one person is bigger than the Florida Gators.
A source close to the program told OnlyGators.com on Wednesday that the suspensions were handed down for a “nasty fight” between the two players late Tuesday. Multiple outlets first reported this detail, including 247Sports and SEC Country.
The Gators have spent all offseason promoting Tabor as the program’s best player. Not only did Florida arrange for Tabor to take a trip through New York to help promote his “brand” along with that of the program, it made a huge deal of Tabor requesting to now go by his nickname “Teez,” even going so far as to change it on the team’s official roster. (Of course, Tabor was not referred to by this name as UF announced his punishment and suspension.)
Less than a week ago, McElwain praised Tabor for “grow[ing] up immensely as far as how he’s going about his business,” noting Tabor is a guy “who cares” and “has really invested in himself.”
“I love the guy,” McElwain also said.
The loss of Tabor and Lewis should have no affect on Florida for the opener, though it certainly hurts Tabor’s character evaluation as an expected early entrant in the 2017 NFL Draft. Tabor will likely side right back into his starting job when reinstated. For Lewis, the lack of practice time certainly hurts as he continues to compete for snaps.
Update: Late Wednesday, Tabor — and his mother — responded via Twitter to the player’s suspension.
“Scuffles happen in football all the time , just didn’t kno you could get suspended for it lol,” wrote Tabor, who later added “I accept my punishment.”
His mother, Merri Tabor, also shared her thoughts. “My son was involved in a altercation with another teammate, in which, he had NO CHOICE but to defend himself,” she wrote.