Bengals fan gets replacement ball

NEW ORLEANS -- As time expired at the end of the Cincinnati Bengals' 27-10 blowout win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Christa Barrett posed for photos near field level, holding a football.

It wasn't THE football, but it was a football, nonetheless.

There was a point during the game when it appeared that despite her best efforts, she would be going back home to Versailles, Kentucky, empty-handed. Thanks to a kind gesture from the Saints organization, that didn't happen.

Midway through the third quarter, Cincinnati tight end Jermaine Gresham caught a 1-yard touchdown pass that put the Bengals up 19-3 when he jogged over to the end zone wall. As he approached, two female Bengals fans -- one dressed in a black A.J. Green jersey and the other in an orange Bengals T-shirt -- had just jogged down the section's steps to the edge of the wall. They were excitedly pleading for the ball when Gresham complied.

But what none of them, not Gresham nor the women asking for the ball, had expected was the male Saints fan lurking nearby in the first row.

As the ball left Gresham's hands, the Saints fan, identified by the Cincinnati Enquirer as a man named Tony Williams, leaped in front of the two women. As the one in the Green jersey -- identified by the Enquirer as Barrett -- caught the flip, Williams snatched the ball from her. In the same motion, he sat back down, putting the ball underneath his right arm.

It stayed there the rest of the game.

"He should be ashamed of himself," Gresham told a reporter from The Associated Press after the game.

After the game, Gresham took to Twitter to apologize to one of the women involved.

Other Bengals players told ESPN.com they were flabbergasted by the snatch.

"That was dirty!" said offensive tackle Andre Smith, an inactive lineman who watched the incident from the sideline.

The woman in the orange shirt, Barrett's friend, Cara Meadows, told the Enquirer how adamant Williams was about keeping the football.

"He kept saying, 'No, ma'am,' " Meadows said. " 'No, ma'am.' "

It wasn't until the game was ending that the Saints found a different football and gave it to Barrett.

Williams kept his.

"It's very simple," he told the Enquirer. "I caught the football.

"I didn't mean to hit that young lady. I was just reaching for the football."

Apparently other Saints fans near him didn't agree with his actions.

As the teams prepared for the ensuing kickoff during a television timeout, fans in the section chanted, "Give her the ball! Give her the ball!" Their audible frustration could be heard throughout the building.

The chants did nothing to change Williams' mind.

The catch was the second scoring play Gresham was part of. He also recovered his own fumble in the end zone in the first quarter after catching a 12-yard pass.